23andme now offers two different DNA testing “levels” so to speak. You can get just the basic DNA test that comes with genetic heritage reports, DNA matches, and more for $99 or you can get the basic test plus health related genetic reports for $199. That might leave a lot of you wondering if those genetic health reports are really worth more than double the price. So, let’s take a good look at what you get with each testing option so you can decide for yourself. You can also read a comparison of 23andme’s basic testing level and AncestryDNA’s test right here.
What do you get with the basic 23andme testing level?
The basic 23andme test comes with two main components: genetic heritage and DNA matches.
Not to be confused with your genealogical heritage, genetic heritage will tell you were your actual genes came from. Confused? Genealogical heritage refers to where the actual people in your family tree were from. (IE, Grandma was from Norway.) Genetic heritage refers to where the DNA you actually have came from. I often tell people to think of their genes like a bag of dice composed of all of their ancestor’s genes (Grandma included). Which of those genes makes up you really depends on a roll of those dice meaning where those genes originated from geologically may also vary from where your recent ancestors were from.
23andme’s report is fairly detailed. You can view your results at 5 different levels: 90, 80 or 70 percent conservative or 50 percent speculative. Each of these levels guesses to some degree based on regional samples where segments of your DNA originated and then builds a percentage of your full genome from each area. A painting of your genes is also provided for each setting showing you just which segments came from which regions.
23andme checks 31 DNA sample populations. The actual regions percents are given for include Western European, British and Irish, French and German, Scandinavian, Finnish, Southern European, Iberian, Sardinian, Italian, Balkin, Eastern European, Ashkenazi, Native American, East Asian, Japanese, Korean, Yukat, Mongolian, Chinese, South East Asian, West African, East African, Central and South African, North African, Middle Eastern, Oceanian, and finally unassigned. The test will not separate “and” categories. For example, you will get one percentage for “French and German” not one for French and one for German, so pay attention to those comas in that list if this is important to you.
Below are my actual results for 90 percent conservative and 50 percent speculative. As you can see, the more conservative the guess, the more “broadly” percentages you will get. While the more “speculative” guess will assign higher percentages to actual regions. You can change your setting by clicking “change confidence level” at the bottom of the page.
23andme also recently added an ancestry timeline which is rather neat. It shows where within your ancestry certain genes were likely to have come from. You can hover over each bar and a pop up will elaborate. As seen below.
Next, you are also given your maternal haplogroup. Males will additionally be given their paternal haplogroup. Haplogroups are groups of genes that are believed to be common to a particular genetic ancestor. This in theory would reveal where the very first person in your genetic line originated from– the birth of your gene line both maternal and paternal. Below are my maternal results. To get my paternal results, my father or brother would need to test.
The final genetic heritage section is neanderthal DNA. Here you are told how many of your genes are neanderthal variants. To gauge how high or low this number is you’re also told how much of your DNA is neanderthal and how this compares to other 23andme testers.
The test also shows four traits common to certain variants and tells you if you have those variants. One for a likelihood of having straight hair, one for a likelihood of sneezing at dark chocolate (this is apparently a thing), one for a lower likelihood of back hair, and finally, one affecting height. You are also ranked against your family and friends (those you have confirmed relation with).
The other primary component of the basic 23andme DNA test is DNA relatives. This section compares your DNA to all other testers and then provides you matches. Each match lists a probable relation (example, second cousin) as well as the amount of DNA shared.
These matches can be searched or sorted by relationship, mom or dad’s side (if your parents have tested), the number of grandparents a match has with the same birthplace, and surname. The surname field also gives a count for each name ranking them from highest to lowest. This is quite helpful to quickly spot likely genetic lines.
When clicking into a match you are given more detail, including common surnames, locations of common ancestors (such as, say, you both said your grandma was from Norway), haplogroups, and genetic heritage. How much is shown depends on how much you and the match have elected to share. This screen also allows you to contact your matches or choose to share more information. Unlike AncestryDNA’s match screen, 23andme regrettably lacks family tree matches.
Ok, now what do you get with the genetic health reports upgrade?
When ordering the $199 test from 23andme, you receive all of the above along with genetic health reports. These reports check for genes known to increase chances for certain conditions or traits. Please keep in mind that having the genetic predisposition for something doesn’t promise it will present itself. For example, my health reports gave me a high chance of being lactose intolerant. I’m not. There are 41 health condition carrier reports, 19 traits reports, and 7 wellness reports. Below is a full list of carrier reports.
Traits reports measure your chances of having certain physical traits. These aren’t super vital to most people, as, well, we have eye balls and mirrors, but if is cool to see how much is actually a result of your genes. Trait reports include:
- Asparagus Odor Detection
- Back Hair (available for men only)
- Bald Spot (available for men only)
- Bitter Taste Perception
- Cheek Dimples
- Cleft Chin
- Earlobe Type
- Earwax Type
- Eye Color
- Finger Length Ratio
- Hair Curliness
- Light or Dark Hair
- Male Hair Loss (available for men only)
- Newborn Hair Amount
- Photic Sneeze Reflex
- Red Hair
- Skin Pigmentation
- Sweet Taste Preference
- Toe Length Ratio
- Widow’s Peak
Each report gives more detail on your likelihood of having each trait and how that compares to other users of a similar background.
Wellness reports on the other hand look at lifestyle and health-related traits, such as the before mention lactose intolerance, as well as alcohol flush reaction, caffeine consumption, deep sleep, sleep movement, muscle composition, saturated fat and weight.
Is it worth the money for the genetic health reports?
Sadly, 23andme must not realize you can pay for the standard test, download your raw DNA, and get health reports for $5 from Promethease. Worse, the Promethease report is far more detailed albeit more complicated and not FDA approved. What little 23andme told me matched what was in my Promethease report, but the Promethease report had thousands of matches. Below are a few screen cuts from my report, as you can see, they flagged genes for all sorts of stuff.
Even the updated Neanderthal info was on Promethease, but more genes were flagged.
Personally, I would not pay $199 for what I could get for $99+ $5 just to have it look pretty.
Whether or not you would is up to you. Remember that at 23andme every additional test you purchase is 10% off and shipping is combined, so you could save by finding others who would like to test and doing a group order. 23andme is also now on Amazon Prime (basic test and genetics health reports version). If you want just one test, you can save on shipping this way.
I do hope this has helped you reach a decision between the $99 23andme DNA test and the $199 23andme genetic health reports test. If you have any questions or would like to see something added to this 23andme DNA test review and comparison, please let me know.