23andMe Review: What to Know About This DNA Test
- More than 26 million people have reported taking an at-home ancestry test.
- 23andMe is one of the largest consumer genetics and research companies in the country, second only to Ancestry.com.
- Beyond ancestry reports and a relative finder tool, 23andMe also offers tests that assess your genetic predisposition for certain diseases.
- The costs for services from 23andMe range from $79 to $399, depending on which service(s) you choose.
- The Health+Ancestry service may be eligible for coverage via Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) or Health Savings Accounts (HSA) benefits.
Within the past few years, at-home ancestry tests have become increasingly popular. Millions of people have reported taking the tests to discover their roots and connect with long-lost relatives.
Since 23andMe is one of the most recognizable names in the industry, you're probably wondering whether a 23andMe DNA test might be right for you. In order to help you answer this question, Health editors consulted with genealogists, geneticists, and genetic counselors, conducted extensive research of several popular companies, read hundreds of customer reviews, and even tried a few out ourselves.
Health editors chose 23andMe as the top pick for answering wide-ranging questions about your health.
In this comprehensive look at 23andMe, you will learn about the different products the company sells and see how 23andMe measures up to other genetic testing companies.
Pros and Cons of 23andMe
- Bundled service: 23andMe allows you to purchase a bundled service that includes both ancestry and health reports in one.
- Range of genetic predisposition and carrier status reports: If you’re interested in learning about what diseases you are at risk of potentially developing, or what disease states you might be a carrier for, 23andMe has an extensive range of reports you can access.
- FDA authorization: While many companies offer health reports, 23andMe is one of the few that actually has FDA-authorized reports, a factor that makes it stand out among competitors. 23andMe is approved by the FDA to offer pharmacogenetics reports for some medications. These reports help people determine how their bodies might react to some prescriptions, such as clopidogrel, which is prescribed for certain heart conditions. This feature isn't yet widely available, but may be in the future.
- Information collected is used to develop future treatments: If you give 23andMe permission to share your DNA for research purposes, your DNA could be used to help develop new treatments for diseases. In the past, 23andMe has worked with multiple pharmaceutical companies to create new medications for diseases like psoriasis.
- Discounts available: 23andMe also has special sales and discounts that reduce costs. For example, 23andMe offered Black Friday Sales, lowering the cost of the Ancestry+Traits package to just $79, and also reduced the cost of the VIP Health+Ancestry service from $499 to $399.
- Time spent awaiting results: After your DNA sample is received, 23andMe might take three to five weeks to process your kit and send your results.
- Limited access to educational resources and genetic professions: Other services, such as Ancestry.com, have robust educational tools and also provide customers the opportunity to talk with genetic counselors. 23andMe doesn’t offer these same resources, meaning that if you need additional information, you’ll have to consult a professional on your own.
- Results are not always accurate: A study published in Genetics in Medicine found that 40% of variants reported in at-home DNA and health tests were false positives. It is important to note that drawback isn’t specific to 23andMe and applies to all at-home consumer genetic tests. For this reason, it is advised that before you take any action related to your test results, you review your results with your doctor.
- Only tests for certain variants: 23andMe’s health predisposition and carrier reports only test for certain variants. For some diseases, the variants are only relevant for particular ethnicities, such as for those of European descent. For people of other ethnicities, the tests might not test for the necessary variants.
- Customer service issues: When Health editors contacted 23andMe's customer service, results were disappointing. Our issue was left unresolved (you can read more about this below).
What Tests Does 23andMe Offer?
Founded in 2006, 23andMe is a leading consumer genetics and research company. Customers can use its services to trace their ancestry and get detailed information about their health. 23andMe currently offers three different packages:
The Ancestry+Traits DNA kit is 23andMe’s lowest-cost service. When you submit your DNA sample, 23andMe will use it to research your genetic background and family history. The company will then provide you with a detailed report on your ancestry, telling you where your family came from—sometimes even down to the exact county.
23andMe’s traits report provides insights into some of your unique features and characteristics, such as your hair color and culinary preferences.
You can also use the Ancestry+Traits kit to find people who share your DNA. 23andMe will automatically build your family tree based on your relationships. If you use the DNA Relative Finder—an optional feature—you can find distant relatives and even send a message to them via the service.
RELATED: How much of autism is genetic?
If you want information about your genetic health risks, the Health+Ancestry kit is a great fit for you. The kit combines the reports from the Ancestry+Traits kit with extensive health reports. cAfter submitting your sample, 23andMe’s DNA analysis will provide you with over 150 various reports. The Health+Ancestry kit can reveal if you have the potential for developing certain illnesses, including celiac disease, Parkinson’s disease, and type 2 diabetes. If you are planning on having children, the Ancestry+Health kit might be especially useful to you. You can use it to find out if you’re a carrier for genetic variants linked to certain inherited medical conditions, including cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia.
For those who want quicker processing and faster results, the VIP Health+Ancestry service is the best choice for you. The VIP Health+Ancestry kit gives you two Health+Ancestry kits and personalized services. It also includes overnight shipping and priority lab processing, ensuring that your sample is processed much faster.
As a VIP customer, you not only get one year of access to premium customer support, but you also get a 30-minute call with an expert who will walk you through your ancestry results.
How Does 23andMe Work?
Using a 23andMe testing kit is simple and painless. There are no needles or blood samples needed. You can complete the process in three simple steps:
- Order your kit: Choose which testing kit is best for you. If you only want to learn about your heritage and family tree, the Ancestry+Traits kit is your best option. If you want to see what health conditions you’re predisposed to develop, you should opt for the Health+Ancestry kit or the VIP Health+Ancestry kit.
- Submit your sample: 23andMe’s kits use saliva samples to detect your genetic information. Follow the kit’s instructions to collect the sample in the provided tube, then mail it back to the 23andMe lab in the prepaid package.
- Review results: Within three to five weeks, 23andMe will send you an email notifying you that your results are ready. You will then log into your account to review your ancestry and health information.
When you purchase a 23andMe kit, you have a few different payment options. In addition to the option of paying upfront with a credit card, you can also opt for extended payments through PayPal Credit. With this approach, you can divide the cost of a 23andMe kit into six equal monthly payments. Depending on your credit, you could qualify for 0% APR for six months (for purchases of $150 or more), allowing you to spread out the expense without paying interest charges.
If you decide to purchase the Health+Ancestry kit or VIP Health+Ancestry kit, the cost of your kit may be eligible for FSA/HSA reimbursement. Contact your FSA or HSA plan administrator to see what the requirements are for reimbursement.
23andMe Reviews and Customer Support
23andMe is a well-respected genetic testing company. While 23andMe is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, it does have an “A+” rating based on its transparent business practices, responsiveness to customer issues, and time in business.
Best Company awarded 23andMe an overall score of 8.3 out of 10. On the site, the company has 4.3 stars out of 5 based on over 60 customer reviews. 23andMe reviews focus on the service’s value, product quality, and customer service.
However, when Health editors ordered a 23andMe kit, our kit was never delivered. After several weeks, we contacted the company via chat, email, and phone. The virtual assistant in the chat feature wasn't helpful, and the company never responded to our customer service email. When calling the customer service phone number, we were hung up on twice, and in total it required three phone calls and more than an hour of our time for the company to explain the order had been cancelled without explanation.
While it seems based on customer reviews that most people have a positive experience with this company, our experience shopping their product gives us pause in recommending their customer service.
23andMe customer reviews
Is 23andMe Right for You?
Multiple companies out there offer DNA analysis services. What makes 23andMe different from its competitors are its extensive health reports that you can get in addition to ancestry information. Also worthy of note is the fact that 23andMe has a more extensive list of diseases that it tests for, which can better aid you in discovering if you’re at risk of developing certain conditions or are a carrier for specific variants.
23andMe’s tests are meant to provide you with a more in-depth understanding of your heritage and overall health, and can motivate you to improve your lifestyle to better your results.
While keeping these benefits in mind, it’s still important to remember that even reputable services like 23andMe have limitations. As DNA testing cannot tell you with complete, 100% accuracy what your true risk of disease is, it’s important not to make any changes to your medications or health treatments solely based on your results. If you’re concerned about the results you get from 23andMe or any other company, you should contact your doctor to discuss the DNA analysis.
Kat Tretina is a journalist and copywriter with expertise in personal health and personal finance. Her content has been featured on sites such as Everyday Health, HuffPost, Forbes, Investopedia, and Credit Karma. Kat calls Orlando, Florida home.