Living DNA vs 23andMe

Choose between two leading DNA testing companies who can help you map your ancestry and genetics.

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Discovering your ancestral roots can be a truly special event. So, you'll want to ensure you choose a DNA company that offers the most complete picture of your family history at a competitive price. Today, a DNA testing kit can also provide you with information about your health and wellbeing which, in turn, can help you lead a more enriched life.

In this guide, we take a closer look at the key features of Living DNA and 23andMe.

A quick review: Living DNA and 23andMe

23andMe logo

23andMe

Living DNA logo

Living DNA

DescriptionWith 23andMe, it's easy to find out if you have unknown relatives around the globe or are prone to certain genetic health risks.Discover distant relatives and get insights about your health and wellness with a quick, and easy cheek swab.
DNA collection typeSalivaCheek swab
Test typesmtDNA
Y-DNA
Autosomal
atDNA
mtDNA
Y-DNA
Result in6-8 weeks6-8 weeks
Price per kitFrom $145

(excludes shipping)

From $139

(excludes shipping)

Database size10 millionNot reported
DNA matchingYesYes
Genetic traits reportYesYes
Ancestry reportsYesYes
Geographic regions covered2,000 +150
Downloadable raw data available?YesYes
Family tree softwareYesNo

Collection method

23andMe and Living DNA use different techniques to collect your DNA. 23andMe asks you for a saliva sample. In your kit, you'll receive a test tube and a set of instructions. Before you deposit your sample, it's important to register your tube's barcode online. This will make sure that 23andMe knows where to send your results.

To provide a sample, you'll need to spit into the test tube until you hit the 'fill line' (around 2ml). Next, add the stabilization buffer supplied in the kit, which helps to protect your DNA sample while it's in transportation. All that's left to do now is to replace the cap securely and post it back to 23andMe using the prepaid postage label.

Meanwhile, the Living DNA kit collects your DNA though a cheek swab. When you receive your testing kit, you'll find a clear plastic tube with a swab inside. Simply pop off the lid, rotate the swab along the inside of your cheeks for 30-45 seconds, and push the lid back on until it clicks. Place the swab inside the silver bag, and send off to LivingDNA for testing.

Testing

23andMe and LivingDNA follow a similar process to test your sample.

They both test three types of DNA linked to genealogy testing: autosomes, mtDNA and Y-DNA. The lab will look at DNA inherited from both sides of the family then compare it to other samples to determine your ethnicity along with other genetic factors. Here's some more information on how each test type works:

  • Autosomal DNA. Automsomal DNA tests both the material and paternal lines. Testing the autosomal DNA will reveal family relations up to seven generations back with up to 95 per cent accuracy. Autosomal DNA can also tell you about inherited conditions and potential carrier status.
  • yDNA. The Y chromosome is a sex chromosome responsible for male development and testing this helps determine your paternal lineage. If you're a biological woman, the lab won't be able to do testing on yDNA. Instead, you can ask a close male family member, such as your father or brother, to take the test instead.
  • mtDNA. Mitochondrial DNA is the DNA found in the mitochondria. Since the mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to child, testing this DNA reveals a person's maternal ancestry.

Ethnic regions

Living DNA offers specialist ancestry testing for African ancestry, British ancestry and European ancestry covering over 150 regions. With Living DNA, you will find your paternal and maternal lineage, historical information on each region, migration patterns and reports on sub-regional breakdowns.

In contrast, 23andMe covers more than 2000 regions worldwide. However, they do not test for a specific ancestry. Instead, 23andMe provides a breakdown of percentage for the countries your ancestors might have originated from.

Database size

23andMe's DNA reports include more than 2,000 global regions, and the company already has more than 5 million genotyped customers worldwide. This allows 23andMe to provide a composition of your ancestry down to 0.1%, which is ideal for clients who want a more complete result.

At the time of writing, LivingDNA has not yet reported the size of its database. As one of the newest DNA testing companies on the market, anecdotally, it could be the case that their database isn't yet large enough to compete with the huge numbers of companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA. Read our review of AncestryDNA.

LivingDNA does cover 80 regions worldwide, with around 21 regions in the British Isles alone. Given the company's in-depth database for the regions in the British Isles, this could be a suitable choice if you know you have British or Irish ancestry.

Results

23andMe provides reports on your ancestry timeline and inherited traits, as well as offering detailed insights into your personalised characteristics and features. This includes the ability to define your earlobe type, ice cream flavour preference and even if you have a genetic aversion to the herb cilantro!

What's more, it provides information on genetic health risks and carrier status. It also has an optional online network, DNA Relative Finder, where you can find matches, compare ancestries and traits. Additionally, 23andMe will automatically build a family tree from your DNA relationships.

One of Living DNA's perks is its personalised ancestry book, which you can purchase via the website's store. If you're willing to spend a few more bucks, you can memorialise your family tree. Living DNA provides your family tree and specific information for sub-regional groups within Africa, Europe, and the British Isles. Once you have received your results, you can choose to use its DNA matching tool and family network to connect. The latest upgrades include a report on fitness, nutrition and advice on diet intolerances, vitamin absorption levels and muscle response.

Comparing the two, 23andMe overall gives a well-rounded picture of your ancestry. It's larger database offers more DNA segments to compare against, which can lead to potentially higher chances of finding a match.

Processing speed

Both Living DNA and 23andMe take six to eight weeks to process your sample. You'll only need to log on to the specific web portal to view the report to view your results. Neither company provides printed or email reports. However, you can purchase a personalised ancestry book from LivingDNA at an additional cost.

Price

23andMe offers different services starting at $145 with the Ancestry kit. Choosing this kit will give you results about where your family line may have started, an analysis of your maternal and paternal lines along with information about your DNA relatives.

If you're looking for a premium kit, you can opt for the Health and Ancestry service for $300. In this case, the results will include everything you get with the Ancestry kit, plus information about health-related genetics. With the premium kit, you can also benefit from in-depth wellness and trait reports along with information around your carrier status.

The Living DNA Starter Kit is available for a price of $169 and provides a detailed report about your ancestry. If you want a report that including health, fitness and well-being choose the Ancestry and Wellbeing kit for $229. Additional shipping costs will be calculated at the checkout.

Privacy and security

LivingDNA says it ensures complete privacy for its clients, even anonymising your data with third parties such as a laboratory partner. Your data will only be used for internal research in its One Family World Project and other genetic research – if you choose to allow it.

During the kit registration with 23andMe, you'll be prompted to review the Consent document for Sample Storage and Additional Genetic Analyses. Here, you will have the option to store your sample via Biobanking or to have it destroyed once the laboratory has done its work.

If you do opt into its research program, the lab strips your genetic information of any personally-identifying information. It is stored with your survey response data and assigned a randomised research identification number.

Verdict

Taking everything into account, 23andMe appears to be the superior testing company; at least for now. With lower prices and a more comprehensive database, your report will go beyond your family tree and delve into specific genetic health traits too.

That said, LivingDNA is an exciting new company. So, it'll be worth keeping tabs on what's in store for this growing company. LivingDNA is generally a great option for those on the British Isles because it specialises in the 21 specific subregions of the United Kingdom. What's more, it claims to have five times the detail for African ancestry than other DNA tests on the market.

Compare with other DNA test kits

Data updated regularly
Name Product DNA Collection Type Test Type Result in Price per kit
AncestryDNA
Saliva
Autosomal
6-8 weeks
From $129
Learn about your family's health and origins with over 1,100 regions analysed.
Living DNA
Cheek swab
atDNA, mtDNA, Y-DNA
6-8 weeks
From $139
Receive ancestry reports with actionable insights about your health with results.
23andMe
Saliva
mtDNA, Y-DNA, Autosomal
6-8 weeks
From $145
Get details of genetic health risks and find unknown relatives from across the globe.
MyHeritage DNA
Cheek swab
Autosomal
3-4 weeks
From $139 (plus shipping)
Personalised & comprehensive assistance in 19+ languages all over the world.
Findmypast
Findmypast
Cheek swab
atDNA, mtDNA, Y-DNA
6 - 8 weeks
From $129
Find out if you have a British or Irish past and trace your history with records dating back to 1538.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Frequently asked questions

How to find a paternal lineage if I'm a woman?

Biological females don't inherit the Y-chromosomes from their fathers, so cannot be tested for their paternal lineage. However, females can still get information about their paternal heritage by asking their father or brother to take the DNA test as well.

Why do some DNA samples fail?

To provide a good sample, clients are advised not to eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, brush their teeth, or use mouthwash for at least one hour before providing a sample. If not observed, a sample can fail. Other reasons include not sealing the test tube's cap securely or not enabling the stabilisation in the test tube. For a successful sample, remember to follow the instructions in your kit to the latter.

How does DNA testing help research?

There are many reasons why DNA testing can help research. As well as building a bigger picture of world-migration over the years, testing can help us to understand the role of genetics in our health and wellbeing. DNA testing can also help scientists understand genetic diseases better, with the possibility of finding a preventative medicine or cure.

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