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Ever wonder what your genetic makeup means for your health? A lot of people use sites like 23AndMe, Ancestry DNA & Family Tree DNA to see where their family originated, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. DNA tests do so much more than tell you where you’re from. They can tell you, based on your genes, whether you and your children are predispositioned for certain types of diseases.
Direct to consumer (DTC) DNA tests are great tools you can use to know what you might be at risk for, and help you curb lifestyle and food choices that can be beneficial later in life. While there is no way to predict with 100% certainty whether you will get a disease or not, knowing what you are more or less likely to get is a huge advantage that is easier to get now than ever with at-home DNA testing. Click here if you want to go straight to our dna testing for health reason reviews.
What Are The Different Types Of DNA Tests?
Generally speaking, there are three kinds of DNA Testing: Autosomal, yDNA, and mtDNA. Each test tells you something different, and each has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of looking for DNA factors that are related to your health.
Autosomal DNA testing basically tests the DNA you inherited from all of your ancestors, both male and female. It is essentially “genderless,” and tests the first 22 pairs of chromosomes. While this takes into account both parents (and subsequent grandparents), you have a more “wholescale” view of your DNA, but the information gets diluted beyond three of four generations.
- All-encompassing DNA testing
- Regional-based clues
- Only reliable for a few generations before your parents
- Hard to determine health-related conclusions
As the name suggests, yDNA only test the Y-Chromosome that is found in males. Because the Y-Chromosome is passed from father to son and incurs very little change from one generation to the next, you can get a very good idea about ancestors and the health and genetic indicators from previous generations.
- Remains the same for many generations
- Multiple tests for yDNA, and can produce very specific results
- Only provides information about paternal line
Also known as Mitochondrial DNA, mtDNA is DNA passed down from mothers to their children. Both males and females inherit mtDNA, but it would only be passed along from the female to another female. Similar to yDNA, very little changes occur from one generation to the next.
- Remains the same for many generations
- Can trace back DNA over 10,000 years
- Only captures a fraction of all the genetic base pairs in our DNA
- Expensive to test
What Kind of Disorders Do DNA Tests Look For?
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Celiac Disease
- Macular Degeneration
- Hereditary Thrombophilia (blood clot disorder)
- Hereditary Hemochromatosis (HFE‑Related)
- Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency
Currently, 23AndMe has the largest database of genetic disorders that they check with their DNA test. In total, they test for 36 different genetic disorders.
What Other Health Factors Can Be Tested With A DNA Test?
There are many recent technological advances to help reach your fitness goals, like fitness trackers and smart scales, but nothing will move the needle more in the future than DNA tests. Traits and health factoids can also be confirmed through DNA testing. Traits include physical features that, while you might already know, can give you a better indication if it is genetic or abnormal from your family history. Male-pattern baldness, red hair, and eye color are examples of traits that DNA tests can confirm.
Other Traits That Can Be Tested Via A DNA Test
- Light vs Dark Hair
- Skin Pigmentation
- Cleft Chin
- Cheek Dimples
- Widow’s Peak
- Hair Curliness
- Finger/Toe Length Ratio
Health factoids are characteristics that, while aren’t considered “medical conditions,” provide insight into how individuals compare to others in things like pain tolerances, alcohol flush reaction (hangover avoidance), longevity, risk-taking and/or aggressive behavior, and many more. Scientists have found that certain genes make an individual more or less likely to have health factoids. While there is no medical certainty to this type of testing, you can compare your genes to those of the greater population.
Other Health Factoids That Can Be Tested
- Muscle Performance
- Nicotine Dependence
- Monoamine Oxidase A (Warrior Gene)
- Caffeine Metabolism
- Avoidance of Errors
Many factoids can be tested via an “a la carte” system, as is the case with Family Tree DNA. One of their most popular test is for Warrior Gene, which basically tests how likely a person is to take risks. This test also indicates whether a person is likely to be aggressive (whether in sports or in day-to-day life).
This test is relatively new, and doesn’t mean that someone with the gene will therefore be an aggressive person. Likewise, someone without it can be aggressive. A lot of studies have found that risk-taking and aggressiveness have a lot to do with how someone is raised and their environment around them. The Warrior Gene simply indicates that a person is more likely to exemplify those traits than someone who doesn’t carry the gene.
All of the companies we reviewed have reliable testing and provide a wealth of information that you can use to better understand what diseases you might at risk for, as well as good information you can use to make healthy choices in your daily life.
Ultimately, choosing the right test for you comes down to personal preference. We have identified our top three, and provide information about some other sites that you can check out that are both reliable and can provide great information.
23AndMe was the first company to give health-focused results back in 2013. They were told by the FDA that they could no longer presenting health data, but they were persistent and in 2015, were ultimately allowed to continue.
Now FDA compliant, 23AndMe provide users with a wealth of information, including genetic health risks, and even give wellness recommendations that other companies don’t. Parents can access carrier status for inherited conditions like cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia.
Data is collected via an at-home saliva collection kit. Results are returned to you after 6-8 weeks. 23AndMe was featured on “Oprah’s Favorite Things of 2017” list, and regularly run specials where a portion of their proceeds are donated to charities liked (PRODUCT)RED.
Though less popular than other services like 23AndMe or AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) provides the most comprehensive testing available of any DTC products. It is the only company to test mtDNA and yDNA. This product is better suited for males since you are essentially paying for the yDNA testing.
If you happened to take part in the National Geographic Genographic Project, you can transfer your results to Family Tree DNA for free (although you’d still pay for testing). Family Tree DNA also has a great forum section where you can connect with other people and discuss results and have any questions answered.
- $49.99 for Family Finder
- $129 for yDNA testing
- $169 for mtDNA testing
DNA Fit doesn’t provide ancestry information, but instead focuses exclusively on health traits and nutrition based on your DNA. The products are expensive, but athletes should consider using DNA Fit for the fact that they take your goals in mind when assessing you DNA traits, and can provide fitness plans and nutrition plans based on your sport and fitness level.
Like 23AndMe, DNA Fit uses saliva sample to collect DNA. The reports you get are different than that of most of the other products we tested, as the results are geared toward performance and fitness, and less about potential diseases you might face later in life.
- $155.53 for Personalized Exercise + Nutrition Plans (Fitness Diet Pro)
Watch rugby legend Bryan Habana go over his DNA Fit test results:
Other DNA Testing Companies We Reviewed:
- African Ancestry: DNA results focused on lineage from Africa. Better for finding ancestry than getting health-focused information
- AncestryDNA: Great database of DNA for matches to ancestry, but no option for add-on health data
- Living DNA: Accurate genealogical results, but little health-related information
- MyHeritage: The most affordable site we tested, but very little health information and small database of results
- TeloYears: Focuses on cellular age, and gives you clues about how to protect the length of DNA strands that shorten over time