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Living DNA Review

Updated on April 16, 2022
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Dhingra
Written by
Joel
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Most DNA testing companies specialize only in ancestry testing. Only a few add health reports. But one company that offers both features is Living DNA.

Living DNA was just launched in 2016. It used to be under DNA Worldwide, a U.K.-based company established in 2004. It partnered with FindMyPast in 2018 to incorporate the British Isles and Irish family history records.

Unlike other ancestry tests that only look at autosomal DNA, Living DNA also looks for mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) and Y-DNA (Y chromosome). Thus, it can provide additional information about maternal and paternal lineages.  

In this Living DNA review, we’ll discuss products, features, the various ancestry and wellness reports, privacy policy, and how Living DNA fares against other DNA tests. 

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Quick Facts

  • DNA test kits for ancestry, wellbeing, or both  
  • Performs autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA testing
  • Provides information about maternal and paternal lineages
  • Swab test instead of a saliva test
  • Great visualization tools
  • Free lifetime updates to ancestry results
  • Optional order of the customized supplement
  • Optional ancestry book
Living DNA Logo

Products and Pricing

Living DNA offers three DNA test kits

  • Ancestry
  • Wellbeing
  • Ancestry & Wellbeing. 
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Each kit contains: 

  • Cheek swab
  • Return envelope
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Living DNA also offers two optional products: 

  • Custom supplement 
  • Ancestry book

1. Ancestry Kit

This costs $89 plus a shipping fee. It incorporates three types of DNA tests in one kit:

  • Autosomal: Focuses on autosomal DNA. It’s enough for establishing family ancestry patterns. It can look at the location of your ancestors as far as 1,500 years ago.
  • mtDNA: Focuses on mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) passed on from a mother to her children. It’s used to trace maternal lineage. 
  • Y-DNA: Only applies to men. It looks at Y-DNA (Y chromosome) passed on from father to son. It’s used to trace paternal lineage.

2. Wellbeing Kit

This costs $99 plus a shipping fee. It analyzes 14 traits related to nutrition and exercise. 

If you choose this product, you’ll get various nutrition and fitness reports, plus personalized vitamin recommendations.

3. Ancestry & Wellbeing Kit

This costs $119 plus a shipping fee. This kit combines all features of the Ancestry and Wellbeing Kits

4. Personalized Vitamins

If you choose the Wellbeing Kit or the Ancestry & Wellbeing Kit, Living DNA will recommend a personalized supplement based on your Wellbeing reports. 

You can order the supplement for $66 per month. 

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5. Personalized Ancestry Book

You can order an ancestry book that details your genetic ancestry in coffee-table format. It contains the same ancestry information that you have on Living DNA’s website. 

The ancestry book costs $40.

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How Does Living DNA Work

To initiate a DNA test: 

  1. Order a kit from the Living DNA’s website. 
  2. Once received, activate the kit online.
  3. Swab the inside of your cheek to get a DNA sample. 
  4. Put the cheek swab into the tube.
  5. Return the swab with your DNA sample to Living DNA.
  6. Wait for test results after 6 to 8 weeks. (Mine took 25 days.)
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My Living DNA Results

You can access results directly through Living DNA’s website. The results are divided into three types: 

  • Ancestry
  • Relatives 
  • Wellbeing

Ancestry

The Ancestry section is divided into three sections. Each section is based on the type of DNA test used.

  • Recent Ancestry: Based on autosomal DNA. You’ll learn about your ethnicity estimates and how your ancestors migrated worldwide.
  • Maternal Ancestry: Based on mtDNA. You’ll get detailed information about your maternal lineage.
  • Paternal Ancestry: Based on Y-DNA. You’ll get detailed information about your paternal lineage.
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Recent Ancestry

The Recent Ancestry page focuses on your family ancestry that’s determined by portions of DNA called “autosomes.” 

Autosomes comprise 22 out of 23 human chromosomes. You received half of your autosomes from your mother and a half from your father. 

Autosomes are inherited from generation to generation. This is the reason autosomal DNA testing is sufficient in establishing ancestry patterns. 

When one population group lives in one area over time, the collective DNA of the group will become distinct from that of other ethnic groups. This is the basis for estimating ethnicity. 

On the Recent Ancestry page, you can find the places where your ancestors originated. It shows a regional breakdown of your recent ancestors within ten generations or roughly 300 years. 

One good thing about Living DNA is that it keeps updating. It continues collecting new data to refine the genetic signature of ancestral regions. 

So, expect your ethnicity estimates to change whenever there’s an update. The updates are free. You can also refer to your previous results.

In my case, when I first viewed my profile in March 2019, I got this result:  

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When I updated in March 2022, my results shifted a bit and became more detailed:

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My results changed again in December 2022:

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While my top ancestral region remains North and West Europe, the percentage changed from 77.8% to the most recent 91.5%.

Haplogroup

Before we go into the Maternal and Paternal Ancestry pages, let’s first define haplogroup

A woman passes the same mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) to all her children. A man passes the same Y-DNA (Y chromosomes) to his sons. 

People will share similar mtDNA or Y-DNA over multiple generations. This is the basis of haplogroups. 

For mtDNA haplogroups, people descended from the same female ancestor. This is the focus of Living DNA’s Maternal Ancestry.

For Y-DNA haplogroups, people descended from the same male ancestor. This is the focus of Living DNA’s Paternal Ancestry.

Living DNA Logo

Maternal Ancestry

The Maternal Ancestry page explains details of your maternal haplogroup. It includes Migration Map and Coverage Map.

Migration Map is one of the more exciting things I’ve seen in all of the DNA testing kits I’ve taken. It illustrates how ancestors from my mother’s haplogroups moved through the world to where I am today. 

My motherline signature belongs to the H13  group. There's a possibility that this group came from the southern regions of Europe or the Caucasus. 

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Coverage Map shows where people who share my maternal haplogroup live today. If I were to visit these regions, I might bump into someone with whom I share a common female ancestor. In my case, I may find them in Daghestan or Georgia.

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Paternal Ancestry

For males, there’s an additional feature called Paternal Ancestry. It explains details of the paternal haplogroup.

Like Maternal Ancestry, it tracks the ancestry patterns of a particular type of DNA. But this time, it’s the Y-DNA or Y chromosome. 

Females won’t have this page because they don’t have Y chromosomes.

Like Maternal Ancestry, the Paternal Ancestry page includes Migration Map and Coverage Map. 

Migration Map shows the journey taken by ancestors from my paternal haplogroup to get to where I am today. 

In my case, my fatherline’s signature belongs to the R-M269 group. This group is most common in Europe, especially on the western side.

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Coverage Map shows where people who share my paternal haplogroup live today. This means that if I visit such regions, I may meet someone with whom I share a common male ancestor. In my case, they are probably in Wales. 

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Relatives

This page is about family matching. Here, you can find and connect with possible relatives who have uploaded their DNA results to Living DNA’s database.

Living DNA’s database appears to be limited compared to bigger ones like 23andMe or Ancestry DNA. So, expect fewer matches. 

However, the company has a great capacity to grow with a lifetime of free updates.

This system fuels One Family One World Project, an initiative undertaken by Living DNA. The company aims to connect more people through the contributions of customers and uploaders.

Wellbeing

This page is for those who purchased the Wellbeing Kit or the Ancestry & Wellbeing Kit. It covers 14 wellness traits:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Omega-3
  • Carbohydrates and Sugars
  • Lactose Tolerance
  • Celiac Disease Risk
  • Maximum Strength
  • Recovery Speed 
  • Endurance - Oxygen Flow
  • Endurance Trainability 
  • Endurance - Blood Vessel Response 
  • Tendon Durability
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The reports advise nutrition and specific exercises that may help you meet your wellness goals. 

As a demonstration, I dug into one report titled Stamina: 

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The Stamina page includes four traits. I clicked on Recovery Speed, and it led me to this page:

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The Recovery Speed page gives suggestions. Roughly 10 to 25% of the report is interesting, while the rest is standard health advice. 

Living DNA will also generate a Supplement Report based on your DNA data. It will recommend a custom supplement mix, which you can order online.

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The supplement costs $55 per month, which is pretty expensive. I’m unsure if this supplement is worth buying, but this is an interesting place to monitor.

Living DNA’s Wellbeing reports are informational and not designed to be diagnostic. It doesn’t offer genetic health risks or carrier status information, which you can find in 23andme and other providers. 

Extra Features

Here are additional features of Living DNA:

  • Upload DNA: Living DNA allows you to upload DNA results from other DNA testing companies. 
  • Download DNA: Living DNA enables you to download your raw DNA data. You can then upload this data into other DNA services to learn more about your ancestry or genetic health risks. 
  • Support Center: This section includes a searchable FAQ and article database. Topics include things to know before buying a kit, press articles, and the science behind Living DNA. 

Living DNA Privacy

According to Living DNA’s privacy center:  

  • You’re in charge of how your DNA data will be used. You have the option to delete your account. 
  • The company has safeguards to ensure confidentiality. For example, it uses ISO:27001, an international standard for data management and information security. 
  • Living DNA complies with GDPR (E.U. General Data Protection Regulations). Thus, Living DNA cannot share data with third parties without your consent. 
  • Living DNA promises not to aggregate and sell your genetic DNA analysis data. However, the company uses your data for internal research for their One Family One World Project and other genetic research. 

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Living DNA Mother line traced

Living DNA Problems (Is Living DNA Accurate?) 

No genetic testing can guarantee 100% where our ancestors lived. We will still look for large regions most of the time if it can. 

Fortunately, Living DNA has a sub-regional breakdown besides the larger regional analysis.

Living DNA has a majority of users from the UK. This makes their results accurate for people with European, British, and Irish ancestry. 

However, reports for users with ancestors from France, Germany, Italy, or other European countries may not be accurate. But this issue should be resolved over time as Living DNA increases its reference populations.

Living DNA also recently expanded into Africa. With 72 new regions, it now has one of the most extensive reference panels for African ancestry testing.

Living DNA’s Wellbeing Kit is priced similarly to genetic health kits offered by other companies. However, it doesn’t provide reports about carrier status or genetic health risks. 

You do have the option to download your data from Living DNA then upload it to other services. You can get more information about your health by using the data that you already have. 

‍How Does Living DNA Differ From Other DNA Tests?

Living DNA vs. 23andMe

Both Living DNA and 23andMe combine autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA into their ancestry test kits. However, 23andMe does more in terms of health screening.

Living DNA vs. Ancestry DNA

Living DNA’s ancestry kit has autosomal, mtDNA, and Y-DNA tests. Ancestry DNA only tests for autosomal DNA.

Living DNA breaks your ethnicity results down into more regions. But Ancestry DNA offers a more comprehensive family matching service. 

Living DNA vs. Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA offers autosomal, y-DNA, and mtDNA tests. However, you need to buy all kits if you need all three tests. Living DNA bundles all three tests in its ancestry kit.  

Living DNA’s autosomal DNA test provides ethnic profiles that are more detailed than Family Tree DNA. 

Family Tree DNA offers a better family matching service. Its Y-DNA and mtDNA tests are more extensive. 

Living DNA vs. MyHeritage DNA

Living DNA offers all three types of DNA tests. MyHeritage only offers autosomal tests.

Regarding health screening tests, MyHeritage provides carrier status and genetic health risk. This is something not offered by Living DNA.

MyHeritage has historical records and a family tree builder. Living DNA has none.

Summary

While Living DNA is relatively new in the DNA testing service scene, it has grown over the years to become a solid player. 

Living DNA’s reference populations are concentrated in places in the U.K. This means ancestry reports for users from France, Germany, Italy, or other European countries may not be accurate. 

Unlike Ancestry DNA or MyHeritage DNA, Living DNA does not have a historical records database or the ability to build a family tree. 

Living DNA has probably one of the most detailed ancestry reports on the market today. It provides information about maternal and paternal lineages, a feature not always found in DNA tests. 

Living DNA’s wellness tests are packed with information. But for a broader array of health tests, you’re better off with other choices, like 23andMe.

Furthermore, Living DNA is one of the few companies committed to keeping your results private. While the company uses your data for research, it does not aggregate and sell your DNA data like many other companies. 

Living DNA Kit Review

Only founded in 2016, Living DNA is considered a recent entry to the field. However, it’s an off-shoot of DNA Worldwide, a leader in forensic testing, founded in 2004. 

Joel

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Ease of Use
Ancestry Information
Health Information
Speed of Updates
Speed of Results
Privacy Protection

Summary

Living DNA has really grown over the last 2 years to become a solid player in at-home DNA testing. 

4.5

Pros

  • Performs all three DNA tests (autosomal, mtDNA, Y-DNA)
  • Can trace your father’s and mother’s lineages
  • Nothing is hidden behind a paywall
  • Strong privacy protection
  • Ability to download and upload raw DNA data 
  • Free lifetime upgrades

Cons

  • Database size isn’t as big as 23andMe or Ancestry DNA
  • Cost is on par with competitors but doesn’t feel you’re getting much for the price
  • Wellbeing reports don’t provide carrier status or genetic health risks
  • Results may be inaccurate due to the concentration of users in the U.K.
Living DNA Logo

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Dr. Dhingra
Dr. Harshi Dhingra
Medical Reviewer
Dr Harshi Dhingra is a licensed medical doctor with a specialization in Pathology. Dr. Dhingra has of over a decade in diagnostic, clinical, research and teaching work, including managing all sections of Pathology laboratory including histopathology, cytology, hematology and clinical Pathology.
Joel
Joel
Content Contributor
Joel is a writer that loves exploring DNA, at-home health, and optimizing my health. He believes that the democratization of home health is in its early stages.
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