What is your ancestry? How does your genetic makeup impact your overall health? Do you carry certain genes that make you more prone to developing certain health conditions?
These are just some of the questions that home DNA testing kits may help you answer. While self-testing isn’t a replacement for clinical testing from a medical facility, the results obtained from home kits may offer starting points you can discuss further with your doctor.
Here’s what you need to know about DNA testing, as well as our roundup of the best DNA test kits that may help provide insights into your individual background.
The DNA test kits we discuss here are at-home versions you must buy directly from a testing company. Typically, you’ll order a kit online from the company and wait a few days for it to arrive in your mailbox.
Most DNA test kits use a saliva sample. Your kit may come with a large cotton swab, which you’ll place in the side of your cheek. Then, you’ll place the swab in a tight container provided in the kit before sending it back to the company.
Other types use “spit” samples. As the name implies, you spit out saliva into a test tube before securing it and shipping your sample back. Yet another method uses a blood sample, which may be necessary for certain food sensitivity tests.
Once the company receives your sample, they’ll send it to their lab for processing. Depending on the kit you choose, your results may come back electronically within a few days or up to several weeks.
Keep in mind that while certain clinical genetic tests may be covered by insurance, at-home kits are not. If you decide to try DNA testing at home, you’ll need to pay for the desired kit out of pocket. Some companies, such as EverlyWell, also take applicable FSA/HSA funds.
- Best for overall health: 23andMe Health + Ancestry Services
- Best for heart health: EverlyWell Heart Health Test
- Best for food sensitivities: EverlyWell Food Sensitivity Comprehensive Test
- Best for ancestry: Ancestry DNA
- Best ancestry kit for budget: MyHeritage DNA
We looked at the following factors when compiling our roundup of the best DNA testing kits:
- the amount of information delivered for the cost
- help with offsetting the cost, such as sales or the ability to use any applicable FSA/HAS funds
- ease of understanding your results
- wait time for results
- ease of use
- lab certifications
- customer ratings
DNA test kit prices vary. Some kits can be paid for using your FSA/HSA funds, so make sure you check.
We’ve indicated cost as follows:
- $ = under $100
- $$ = $100–$150
- $$$ = over $150
Perhaps the most comprehensive home DNA testing kit on the market, the Health + Ancestry Services kit from 23andMe offers two primary sets of data that consumers are increasingly interested in.
First, the DNA sample used in this kit is analyzed to see if you’re predisposed to any particular health conditions that could influence your lifestyle decisions moving forward. Examples include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and celiac disease. The generated reports are said to be “FDA-authorized.”
This kit also tests for other aspects of your health, including carrier genes for certain diseases such as breast cancer, your muscle composition, and your genetic predisposition regarding your weight. Learning this information can help you be proactive in managing your overall health.
Second, this kit also analyzes your ancestry (genealogy). The company matches your genes to more than 2,000 regions of the world and then generates an “ancestry composition” chart to show you the percentages. From there, you have the option to build your own “family tree” with matches from others who have used this test kit.
The results are shared with you via the 23andMe app, which you must download ahead of time. From there, you may decide to share these results with your doctor, build your family tree, or participate in additional testing.
If you have a personal or family history of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, you may consider testing at home with the EverlyWell Heart Health Test. This is a blood test that gathers possible risk factors for heart disease, which is still the deadliest disease in the United States.
Once you’ve sent in your sample, EverlyWell’s certified lab technicians will measure your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as your level of high-sensitivity C-reactive proteins (hs-CRP) that could indicate inflammation in your body. This test also measures your blood glucose.
The results of your test are shared through a secure website, for which you’ll create an account. Every test is also reviewed by an independent doctor who is board certified in your state.
While this kit shouldn’t replace your annual checkup or blood testing at your doctor’s office, you may consider using it to gather information in between visits. You can then decide to share your results with your doctor immediately or at your next appointment.
(Note: If you have any potential symptoms of heart disease, such as chest pain or abnormal heart rhythms, consult a doctor right away.)
Traditionally, food sensitivities may be identified either through blood testing at your doctor’s office or through long-term elimination and tracking via a food diary. If you’re looking for quick insights into possible food sensitivities, though, you might consider this comprehensive test from EverlyWell.
While EverlyWell offers multiple food sensitivity tests, this version provides more information. The test uses a blood sample and determines any immune system reactions to 204 different foods. These could include typical sensitivities, such as eggs and wheat, and ones you might not think about, such as certain fruits and vegetables.
Once you receive your results, you may consider sharing them with your doctor or immunologist.
If you’re looking solely for an in-depth analysis of your genealogy, you may consider the original Ancestry DNA kit. With a saliva sample, Ancestry DNA matches your genes against more than 1,500 possible regions of the world to provide you with an “ethnicity estimate.”
To review your results, you’ll download the Ancestry DNA app on your smart device. There, you can review your ethnicity estimate, a related map, and information regarding ancestral movement between regions. You can also build a family tree. Other more detailed information about your ancestors may require a separate subscription fee.
One downside to the Ancestry DNA test is that you’ll need to wait up to 8 weeks for your results to come back.
If you want similar results to Ancestry DNA at a slightly lower cost, you may consider this DNA kit from MyHeritage. This kit uses a cheek swab sample to compare your DNA to 2,114 regions, and you’ll receive the results in about half the time of Ancestry — 3 to 4 weeks.
Also, as with Ancestry DNA, you have the option of paying for a subscription to build a detailed family tree. But overall you may see fewer details about your ancestors and their regional movements than you would with Ancestry DNA’s starter kit.
While DNA test kits offer the ability to test for some aspects of your health and genealogy from the comfort of your home, these options may not be as accurate as clinical versions you might obtain in a medical setting.
If you’re looking to find out your risk for cancer, some DNA tests might reveal risk factors for certain mutations. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll go on to develop cancer, however.
For any positive food sensitivities you find on a home test, you may consider following up with an allergist or immunologist for further testing. One concern about these types of home tests is the possibility of false positives.
If you’re concerned about potentially serious underlying illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, you should skip home testing and see your doctor right away.
If you’re simply interested in your overall health and genealogy, you may consider a DNA test kit for informational purposes only. Before buying, make sure you consider the following:
- the cost of the kit, including whether you can use FSA/HSA funds
- any “FDA authorization” (which doesn’t mean the same thing as FDA approval)
- how your sample is taken (for example, not all users are comfortable with blood samples)
- any subscriptions the company requires before allowing you to view more detailed results
- how you’ll review your results (such as via an app, the company’s website, or email)
An increased demand for DNA testing has led to the rise of at-home test kits you can buy without approval from your doctor or insurance company. Depending on the results, you may gain valuable information regarding your ancestry and health risk factors.
Still, remember that at-home DNA test kits aren’t designed to diagnose any health condition, nor can they predict any particular disease outcome, such as the development of cancer. Talk with your doctor if you have any particular concerns about your health.