This question can’t be answered with exact certainty, with many factors coming into play to provide an adequate answer. Ultimately, no DNA test is patently inaccurate, but some DNA tests are more reliable and accurate than others when it comes to specific areas.

All tests that are not administered by a doctor or professional are specifically indicated not to diagnose or provide guarantees. Any health claims made by these at-home tests are simply as suggestions to improve health:

  • more exercise
  • stop smoking
  • limit saturated fat intake
  • watch your salt

A dietician or nutritionist would have made most of these 'actionable' suggestions even without seeing your DNA.

For many of the tests that provide insight into your ancestry or ethnicity, the outcomes are often just as vague. If you’re looking for something specific, say Native American blood or Jewish ancestors, you may find your final percentages unclear. Even if you have a majority of the genetic ancestry of these populations, it won’t be enough to gain access to organizations associated with these ethnic groups.

Which DNA Test is the Most Accurate? 1

Accuracy of testing for ethnicity

When it comes to the accuracy of testing for ethnicity, most at-home DNA tests aren’t much more than a novelty. Many give you a breakdown by percentage of your genes and where they came from. For some tests, this tracking starts at the emergence of proto-hominids out of Africa. Others track more recent movements, up to and including the last few generations.

The rough estimates provided by these DNA kits are usually adequate for the average consumer. If you’re looking for something more specific, it’s best to ask why you’re seeking this particular answer. This path of inquiry usually evolves from questions about your status regarding Native American, Jewish, or ethnic minority ancestry.

In all these cases, the results of an at-home DNA test will not be sufficient to justify any substantiated claims to these ethnic groups. With Native Americans, connections to the community - and acceptance by a tribe - are often based on documented genealogical history even if you’re 100% Native American genetically. In this regard, you shouldn’t seek accuracy in testing for ethnicity, but more so accuracy of testing for ancestry.

Which DNA Test is the Most Accurate? 2

Accuracy of DNA testing for ancestry

Ancestry is where these at-home DNA kits may be most potent in determining your inclusion in certain minority groups. Tests like Heritage and Ancestry can connect you to suspected relatives and family members that have also used the kit. For those seeking to find a more profound attachment to their heritage, finding compatriots to guide you is often the best method. If you find someone who is currently a part of a Native American tribe, your search may be successful.

For Native individuals in the United States of America, acceptance by a tribe is often a requirement to receive any benefits associated with the status. The same is often the case in Canada and in other jurisdictions that recognize exclusive rights for their indigenous cultures. Reaching out to these distant relatives is usually the best way to learn more about your ancestry and how it may impact your day-to-day life.

A bonus of connecting with relatives is to learn more details about their medical history and that of shared ancestors. This family history is often on a par of relevance with the results regarding genetic health, returned by an at-home DNA test kit.

Which DNA Test is the Most Accurate? 3

Accuracy of DNA testing for genetic health

The health implications of your genetics are usually based on minute increases in the risk of certain illnesses. The accuracy of these risks varies significantly on numerous variables. There are two main groups of risk assessment when it comes to genetics: gene-based risk factors and genetic risk estimates.

Gene-based risk factors: These associations with illness are due to mutations in specific genes, often with a stronger connection with genetic variant and disease. Examples include Huntington’s Disease and Cystic Fibrosis, caused by mutations in the HTT and CFTR genes, respectively. However, each gene contains dozens of variants, each with a variable level of influence.

Genetic risk estimates: Also known as Genetic Risk Scores (GRS), these results combine an accumulated risk of a given illness based on many different genetic mutations. All mutations associated with blood pressure can be combined to provide an overall risk assessment. Even mutations with a minimal, singular effect. These scores are speculatory and will increase in accuracy as research proceeds.

In both regards, 23andMe offers the most and is at the forefront of genetic health information. The question of which DNA test is most accurate receives a definitive answer in this realm. It’s the only FDA-approved test to provide results on your health and predispositions to illness and disease. You’ll have to do some research to understand the implications of these estimates.

Which DNA Test is the Most Accurate? 4

Which DNA test is most accurate

When it comes to which DNA test is the most accurate, it depends on what you’re looking for. The DNA test that shows your relatives is the best to forge connections and relations with members of shared ethnic groups or organizations.

23andMe gets the trophy for accuracy of testing for genetic health. Their focus on health, continuously updated and reviewed, is unmatched in the field at the current time. Consider undertaking the 23andMe test, download your raw DNA data, and search for genetic connections by applying your genetic information from another service. By uploading your data to Living DNA and MyHeritage, you get the best of both worlds by using world-class expertise in both health and ancestry.

Joel is a writer with a passion for the science of DNA and the power of its manipulation.

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