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Living DNA Review: Are its ancestry and health DNA tests a good deal?

Find out how Living DNA tests compare to the competition in price, accuracy, value, privacy and more

Last Updated: Aug 10, 2020

Living DNA review

Over the past several years DNA testing has advanced significantly in terms of its capacity to teach us about our health and ancestry and also how easily we can access high-quality testing as consumers.

Founded in 2016, Living DNA is one of the newer companies aiming to help you learn a great deal of genetic information. How does it compare to competition? Are its tests a good value? Does Living DNA protect your privacy?

We thoroughly tested Living DNA’s services and in this review will share all pertinent details with you so that you can decide whether to test with this company.

Review Summary

Pros

  • Compared to similarly priced competitors, Living DNA offers unparalleled detail about your ancient ancestors in the context of history
  • Your results can be printed in an attractive coffee table book, which could make a great gift
  • Living DNA provides a reasonably priced “Starter kit” that lets you dip a toe into the world of DNA testing
  • The company places a significant emphasis on privacy and is extremely transparent about how it handles your data

Cons

  • The Living DNA database is smaller than some of the other large companies, which might not appeal to those searching for living relatives
  • Does not provide any information related to disease risk, and the health and wellbeing reports are relatively limited.

Bottom line

At Innerbody, we love Living DNA’s approach to genetic genealogy. The platform allows you to make profound discoveries about your ancestral origin in an engaging and exciting way. If you potentially have British and Irish ancestral roots, we can strongly recommend Living DNA for its ancestry testing, as these tests can break down the British Isles into 21 subregions. The focus on privacy and security is also a valuable feature for many customers.

While Living DNA offers some health and wellbeing information, this is more of a bonus feature than a truly competitive one; if you are interested in doing a deep dive into how your DNA might influence your health, you may wish to look at one of the many other tests on the market offering these features in more detail.

Our Top Picks

Living DNA

Living DNA offers highly detailed ancestry testing and also provides some information about health and wellbeing.

Living DNA is easy to recommend if you’re hoping to learn more about your ancestry and you have reason to believe your family has history in the British Isles, Africa or continental Europe. Here, Living DNA truly excels and provides fantastic detail.

Why you should trust us

Innerbody Research recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary. Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions about staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.

This review, like all medical-related content on this website, is thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy. Additionally, we extensively analyze each health-related service we review. We evaluate the entire customer experience from signing up use of the product or service, and then offer unbiased, marketing-jargon-free analysis based on the latest scientific evidence and medical standards.

What does Living DNA do?

Living DNA may be relatively new (created in 2016) but it is an offshoot of the DNA Worldwide Group, a UK-based DNA testing firm that has been around since 2004. Living DNA aims to help people understand more about their genetic ancestry, providing specialist detail for British and Irish roots. Users can trace the migration patterns of their ancestors throughout history to build a picture of their genetic identity. Living DNA also offers some limited health and wellbeing information.

Living DNA provides a superior ancestry experience. Its reports cover the highest number of regions and subregions of any other product on the market. Living DNA can provide users with a breakdown of their ancestry at a country level. For many countries, testing can even pinpoint your ancestry to a regional level.

The reports provided by Living DNA take users on a tour of their ancestry, tracking key points throughout history. Much like other genetic genealogy companies, Living DNA also offers an optional Family Matching service that allows users to discover genetic relatives across the world. This feature works for individuals as distantly related as 9th-degree relatives. For reference, you and a ninth degree relative likely shared a common ancestor around 120 years ago! This data can be linked with traditional genealogical research to build up an impressive picture of your family tree.

In addition to specializing in British and Irish ancestry, Living DNA offers insights into African ancestry at 5x the detail of other companies. This is important, as data from these regions are often poorly represented in genetic databases.

Finally, alongside its ancestry insights, Living DNA also provides users with some health- and wellness-related information focused on nutrition and exercise.

On their intuitive platform, Living DNA offers a free 7-day online course called “What is DNA?” In this course, you can learn all about DNA testing and how unlocking its values could be relevant to you. This understanding can help you decide which type of test you want to take to get the most out of your experience.

How does Living DNA testing work?

Like most direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies, Living DNA uses single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to track genetic variation. SNPs are genetic variants in one “letter” of the genetic code. They are extremely common in our DNA. The identity of particular variants is associated with various traits and ancestry and can be used to make predictions about an individual’s genetic history and potential health implications. Living DNA currently analyzes 650,000 of these SNPs across its platform.

Living DNA’s tests assess autosomal DNA, Y chromosome DNA (yDNA), and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to give you a comprehensive view of your ancestry, as well as some health traits. Your autosomal DNA (the DNA on all your chromosomes except the Y chromosome) provides you with your recent ancestry information. This DNA is inherited from both parents.

Recent ancestry (autosomal DNA)

Your autosomal profile can tell you about your ancestry from around six generations ago. However, it cannot tell you from which side (maternal or paternal) that DNA came. For instance, if your DNA report showed 40% of your DNA could be traced back to the British Isles, it would nevertheless be unclear whether this is from your mother’s side or father’s side.

Motherline

Your maternal heritage can be uncovered using mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is a separate type of DNA not included in your ‘standard’ genome that you inherit from your mother’s egg cell during fertilization. Living DNA uses variation in this DNA to report on your maternal haplogroup; everyone with this haplogroup shares a common female ancestor from tens of thousands of years ago, like a “DNA clan.”

Living DNA provides two maps:

  • A coverage map, which shows how common your maternal haplogroup is throughout the world
  • A migration map, which tells you the movements of your maternal ancestors from tens of thousands of years ago.

Fatherline

Living DNA also reports on your paternal inheritance. This analysis requires sequencing the Y chromosome DNA, so only genetic males will be able to uncover this information. If you are a female and want to learn about your paternal ancestry, you could ask a close male relative such as your father, brother, or uncle to take the test and share the results with you.

The information from your Fatherline tells you your haplotype and subclade, similar to your maternal haplotype. You will find out about how common your paternal haplotype is, using the coverage map, along with the migration of your paternal ancestors throughout history.

Pricing

Living DNA offers DNA testing kits at four price levels:

  • A Starter kit costs $49. This product gives a taster of the type of things you can learn from a full report on ancestry and wellbeing.
  • Living DNA’s Ancestry kit retails for $99.
  • The health-focused Wellbeing kit costs $129.
  • The company also offers a combination Wellbeing and ancestry kit for $179.
  • The Personalized Ancestry Book, which is a hard copy of your report showing the journey of your ancestry, costs an additional $44.99.

If you have already had your DNA sequenced by another company such as 23andMe or AncestryDNA, you can upload your results to Living DNA for free.

Let’s explore the test kits in greater detail.

Products

Full Ancestry kit

With Living DNA’s Full ancestry kit, you can access advanced ancestry reports that delve deep into your genetic roots. It can narrow down your ancestry to 150 regions worldwide, and in some regions (the British Isles, Ireland, Europe, Africa) can even offer sub-regional breakdowns.

Living DNA can provide recent ancestral history (from up to 1,000 years ago) and can also reveal your related “branches” of the human family tree from early human migration over 80,000 years ago. The ancestry report also includes information related to the geography and culture of your ancestral regions, helping you to understand the history of your descendants.

Wellbeing kit

The Wellbeing kit moves away from tracing your ancestry and instead provides you with insights into health-related traits. These insights are primarily related to nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle, which makes them actionable.

Some of the health traits you will learn about include:

  • How your body likely responds to vitamins
  • How you metabolize food (including the risk of potential food intolerances)
  • Types of exercise that work best with your genetic makeup.

You can use these insights to make better dietary and lifestyle choices, manage weight with greater success, achieve fitness goals, and push more effectively toward a healthier lifestyle in general.

Ancestry & Wellbeing kit

Living DNA also offers a dual Wellbeing and ancestry kit that provides both ancestry and wellbeing information together in one test. This is a good value when you consider the price of the two individual tests you’d otherwise consider buying separately. However, the amount of health information you can learn with the wellbeing portion of testing isn’t quite comparable to what you can learn with other health DNA testing options on the market today.

Starter kit

Living DNA’s unique Starter kit gives you your autosomal global result as well as some wellbeing features, including information about nutrition and muscle performance. Given the much lower price, your ancestry data is understandably more vague with this kit, providing you with a map and percentage of your predicted ancestry across eight regions.

One helpful feature: if you decide you want to know more, you can upgrade your kit to one of the more complete products in order to discover more features.

Free DNA upload

If you have had your DNA sequenced elsewhere, you can upload your data for free and utilize some of Living DNA’s features. This process will reveal your global report, where you can see your predicted ancestry across eight regions. Note that this is currently listed as a limited time offer on their website.

You can also discover your relatives through the DNA matching tool. Should you wish to learn more, you can pay for an upgrade to receive full autosomal results, including ancestry and/or wellbeing information.

Personalized Ancestry Book

Living DNA also provides an option to have your results published in an attractive book, which summarizes your report and shows the journey of your ancestry with pictures and graphics.

Getting started with Living DNA

After you order your test, Living DNA will send you a collection kit, which contains a simple mouth swab. The testing process is very straightforward.

Step 1: Set up your account

Before you test, you must create an account and activate your kit using the activation code found on the inside of the box.

Step 2: Collect your DNA sample

To take the test, you should not eat, drink, or smoke for at least an hour beforehand. Simply remove the swab from the packaging and swab the inside of your cheek by rotating the swab for 30-45 seconds. You then return the swab and lid to the holder, securing the lid firmly.

Step 3: Prep and ship your DNA sample

Stick the barcode from your return package onto the swab lid and place the swab in the return bag. Finally, you must seal the bag, put it in the prepaid return envelope, and post it. You should receive your results within 6-8 weeks.

Privacy considerations

One very admirable aspect of the Living DNA testing experience is that this company takes your privacy very seriously. The company won’t share any of your data with third parties without your consent: you need to actively opt-in if you choose to share your data for research purposes. Living DNA states that they provide data only to academic projects to improve our understanding of how all humans are interconnected and to improve human health. This data will be anonymized, meaning identifying information is never shared. You can also change your mind about consenting at any time with a click of a button, and your data will no longer be used in research.

If you want Living DNA to delete your data altogether and destroy your sample, you must contact them via email.

The company’s policy states that Living DNA was built around privacy, and they have made your data as secure as technology allows. Living DNA doesn’t sell your data to pharmaceutical companies. They will never sell your DNA information or pass it on to insurance companies, and they will only provide it to law enforcement agencies when legally obligated to do so, but as yet have not received any such requests.

What criteria do we use to evaluate home health products and services?

We customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health service or product. For most products and services, we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:

Quality: How well does the company deliver its core service(s) to the customer? Is the quality of the product or service high enough that we would recommend it to loved ones without hesitation? Does the company have a high quality medical review board with oversight? Do the testing companies use the latest and most accurate testing technologies available? How accurate are the tests compared to alternatives?

Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the provider offer discounts or free services to our readers?

Customer Support: How well does the company provide information about its product or service? How clearly are options presented? How clearly are test results presented? How well does the testing company help you understand results and get treatment if necessary?

Privacy: Are all products sent in discreet packaging? Will your data be stored securely? Could your data ever be shared without your permission?

Speed: How fast will you receive your product or test results, from the moment you click “buy?” Are the waiting times stated by the company accurate and consistent?