This question can’t be answered with exact certainty, as there are many factors that come into play. Ultimately, no DNA analysis is patently inaccurate, but some DNA testing companies are more reliable than others when it comes to specific areas.
For example, DNA testing services like AncestryDNA offer popular ethnicity tests that are incredibly reliable. For an ancestry test, 23andMe and AncestryDNA are common choices. If you’re interested in a health test, the previously mentioned DNA testing companies (23andMe and AncestryDNA) and MyHeritage will give you accurate DNA results.
The exact accuracy of your test results may vary depending on a few potential factors. Things like the DNA testing kit you use, the type of DNA sample you submit, and the reliability of the testing company’s lab all come into play. So to narrow down the best DNA testing kits in terms of accuracy, we looked into the top DNA services to tell you what we found!
The DNA test kits covered in this article are taken at home and are not given by a doctor or professional. Therefore, they are not meant to diagnose any illnesses or provide any guarantees. These home DNA test kits are primarily for entertainment value and to learn some new information about yourself.
That being said, your DNA results can provide some surprising info about your genetic predisposition to certain ailments, or help you find new additions to your family tree. Any health reports you receive in your DNA analysis are simply suggestions to improve health, and may include things like:
A dietician or nutritionist could have made most of these 'actionable' suggestions even without seeing your DNA. However, the tailored results you’ll receive in a DNA testing company’s health report may offer some additional insights you may have missed otherwise.
Want to know the best DNA test for Health, Ancestry, or Heritage? Read our 2020 review of the best DNA tests.
Many of these tests focus on your ancestry or ethnicity, instead of your health. However, one downside is that the outcomes can be somewhat vague. If you’re looking for something specific, say Native American blood, Jewish ancestry, or Irish lineage, you may find your final percentages unclear.
Even if the majority of your genetic ancestry originates from one of these populations, it won’t be enough to gain access to organizations associated with these ethnic groups. However, they can give you fun information like how much Neanderthal DNA you might have.
Genetic testing can be effectively used to find distant relatives or long lost family members as well. If genealogy is your goal, DNA testing kits are a great option. They allow you to track your maternal line with mtDNA tests (mitochondrial DNA tests), and your paternal line with y-chromosome tests. DNA services like AncestryDNA and 23andMe even offer tools to build an online family tree!
When it comes to the accuracy of testing for ethnicity, most at-home DNA test kits aren’t much more than a novelty. Many give you a breakdown by percentage of your genetic makeup and tell you where your genes 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 ethnicity estimates provided by these home DNA testing 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 testing kit 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 the accuracy of an ancestry test.
Ancestry is where these at-home DNA kits may be most reliable in determining if you’re a member of certain minority groups. Tests like MyHeritage and AncestryDNA can connect you to suspected relatives and family members as long as they’re also in the testing company’s DNA database. 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 American 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 just as relevant as the test results that you’d receive with an at-home genetic health test.
The health implications of your genetic makeup are usually based on minute increases in the health risks of developing certain illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s. The accuracy of these health reports varies significantly depending on numerous factors. There are two main groups of health risk assessment when it comes to genetics: gene-based risk factors and genetic risk estimates.
Gene-based risk factors: These illnesses are due to mutations in specific genes, often with a stronger connection to genetic variants and diseases. Examples include Huntington’s Disease, Alzheimer’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 health 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.
This all depends on the type of test you’re looking for, but in terms of the best actionable test results with unmatched accuracy, the 23andMe Health + Ancestry test is hard to beat. AncestryDNA (available on Amazon and Ancestry.com) and MyHeritage DNA also offer some incredibly accurate ethnicity and ancestry DNA test kits.
FamilyTreeDNA, AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and Living DNA all offer some very accurate ancestry test kits. With 23andMe, you can even get a package deal that includes their top of the line Health + Ancestry test together!
AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, and 23andMe are probably the best for finding long lost relatives to add to your family tree. This is because the popularity of these DNA testing services means that they have massive DNA databases to find potential DNA matches.
The price of an accurate DNA testing kit can vary quite a bit. But if you’re looking for something that’s incredibly accurate, you’ll want to avoid the cheaper tests. The best would be the 23andMe Health + Ancestry test, which will cost you $149 on Amazon. If that’s too expensive for you, check out AncestryDNA’s Genealogy & Ethnicity Test for $69 (also available on Amazon or Ancestry.com).
When figuring out which DNA test is the most accurate, it all depends on what you’re looking for. The DNA test kits that show your family tree, such as those offered by 23andMe and AncestryDNA, are the best if you’re looking to forge connections and relations with family members, shared ethnic groups, or organizations.
23andMe gets the trophy for accuracy of testing for genetic health. Their focus on health risks is continuously updated and reviewed and unmatched in the field at the current time. Consider undertaking the 23andMe Health + Ancestry Test, download your DNA raw data, and search for genetic connections by applying your genetic information from another service. By uploading your raw data to Living DNA and MyHeritage, you get the best of both worlds by using world-class expertise in both health and ancestry!
Know more about yourself for less. Read our favorite DNA tests under $30 and under $60.