3 Things DNA Tests Can Teach You About Your Past and Future

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Have you considered buying a DNA test kit to discover more about your ancestors, health, and even living relatives? According to an MIT report, over 12 million people have already purchased one of these kits from one of several different companies that sell them directly to consumers. You should know that each of these DNA test kits vary because of the way they collect samples, the tests they perform, and the reports that they supply. To make sure that you'll buy one that satisfies you, take a few minutes to learn a bit more about how they work, what the tests can reveal, and which home test kits we prefer.

Three Things DNA Test Kits Can Tell You About Yourself

If you'd like to know if you're related to somebody famous, have a genetic predisposition to certain diseases, or can make connections with your biological family, DNA tests may offer you the perfect solution. These are the three basic benefits that you can enjoy from your DNA test.

1. Learn About Your Ancestors

You might already know that your great-grandpa immigrated from England or that your mother's family came over on the Mayflower. At the same time, you probably don't know much about your ancestors in the days before births or even citizenship were recorded. Some of you might have lost contact with your biological family, so you have no way to even know much about your immediate ancestors.

Of course, a few people have received surprises in their test results as well. For instance, the Washington Post documented a fascinating story about how a woman named Alice Collins Plebuch sent off for a 23andMe kit on a lark. Her results led to years of research, the eventual discovery that her father and another baby had been switched in the hospital at birth about a century earlier, and a happy connection with new family members.

2. Find Your Family

Even if you know your parents, siblings, and even first cousins, you may not know your extended family. Of course, some of you might have been adopted at a young age and won't know your birth families at all. Some of the companies that market DNA kits also allow users to create an account and share their DNA with other users.

In turn, the company's system will help identify likely matches. If both parties consent, you even have the option to strike up conversations with lost cousins, aunts, and uncles. As an example, this post on Ancestry.com will explain how you may find biological family members with your test results.

An ordained minister and grandmother named Toni DiPini had always known she had been adopted as a baby. She had previously tried and failed to find her biological family by using a private detective. More than 50 years after she had been found abandoned, according to this news report, her Ancestry DNA kit and membership allowed her to meet and enjoy a warm relationship with a biological first cousin.

3. Predict Your Future Health

Some DNA tests can provide you with information about inherited tendencies to develop certain diseases. In 2017, the FDA approved 23andMe for marketing its own genetic health predictions directly to consumers.  Diseases that this test screened for include Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and a number of blood diseases.

In most cases, your genes are not your destiny when it comes to your health. For instance, many different genes can contribute to the risk of developing Alzheimer's, but lifestyle factors may also play a role. Also, some genes can mutate during a baby's gestation, and some can also mutate during the course of a person's life. You should not assume these reports will mean that you will develop a specific disease; on the other hand, you and your doctor might find the information helpful to diagnose and prevent some diseases.

How Home DNA Tests Work

Companies focus on producing home DNA test kits that are very user friendly. This is all you have to do:

  • You might buy a home DNA test kit in a store or order one online. Each kit comes with instructions and materials to collect a swab from the inside of your cheek or a saliva sample.
  • Collection won't hurt at all and only takes a few minutes, but you're generally advised not to eat, drink, brush your teeth, or smoke for at least 30 minutes before you provide your sample.
  • After you've finished your collection, you can simply mail the kit back to the company with a pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope. The kit should also include instructions about how to register for an online account.
  • You may receive your results by mail or by logging into your online account. Most companies will return your results to you within four to eight weeks.

DNA Test Types

Many tests include multiple test types; however, you should know about the pros and cons of the three basic kinds of DNA tests that may be included with your kit:

  • Y-DNA: Only males have Y-DNA, so this test looks at the test subject's paternal line of ancestors. In other words, a male can find ancestors, genes, and family from his father's line, his father's father's line, and so on. DNA tests can trace Y-DNA back to distant generations.
  • mtDNA: Just as Y-DNA only reveals information about a paternal line, mtDNA only reveals information about the subject's maternal line. Both men and women inherit mtDNA from their mother. As with Y-DNA, mtDNA can show results that extend back many generations.
  • atDNA: You inherit a mixture of atDNA from both parents. In turn, your parents inherited a random mix of atDNA from their own parents. This test can provide you with some information about both sides of your family. The downside of atDNA is that it can only be traced back about six generations.

Share DNA Tests With Family Members for More Insights

Your own genes will give you a picture of your family history; however, it won't give you the entire picture by itself. Y-DNA tests only work for males and provide information about paternal lines. On the other hand, mtDNA will give both males and females reports about their maternal line. In contrast, atDNA works for either gender, but will only give you the assortment of genes you inherited from your parents and grandparents. Also, atDNA won't trace your family history back more than a couple of hundred years.

To get a better picture of your family, you might also want to get a test for a parent or sibling of the opposite gender. Even though you share most of your genes with close relations, you won't all get exactly the same results. You have the chance to learn more about your family history and living relations if you work together with other family members. Also, your test results should fuel plenty of conversations over dinner for years in the future.

Compare the Best Home DNA Tests on the Market

If you're ready to explore the information that your genetic inheritance can tell you about your family history, potential health risks, and even living relatives, you should compare a few different companies before you purchase your kit. These are our suggestions for the four best home DNA test kits:

  • Ancestry.com/DNA: The test costs $99. Many people prefer the Ancestry DNA test results and online system for connecting with extended family. The company also says that they offer twice as much geographical detail about ancestors than other companies do. This test requires a saliva sample, and results may take up to eight weeks. Get an Ancestry DNA test.

  • FamilyTreeDNA.com: The tests costs $79, and results may take up to six weeks. This is one of the few services that uploads raw data as well as reports, so professionals may prefer having this information. The test requires a cheek swab. Get a FamilyTree DNA Kit here.

  • LivingDNA.com: This test costs $99, requires a cheek swab, and should produce results within six weeks. People tend to prefer the three-in-one report of Y-DNA, mtDNA, and atDNA for family history. This company promotes their reports as offering more detail about family history and migration than the others. Get a Living DNA kit here.

  • 23andMe.com: The family history test costs $99, but 23andMe.com includes health information as well for $150. Both the genetic health traits and carrier status reports meet FDA standards. The test requires a saliva sample, and you may need to wait up to eight weeks for a report. Learn more about 23andMe here.

What Can You Gain From a Home DNA Test?

Home DNA test kits give you a chance to learn more about your ancestry, living family, and even your health. Some test takers have enjoyed researching their family trees to find famous ancestors or start conversations with living family members. Others took genetic information about health to their doctors to get more insight into reducing the risk of diseases. In addition, you can give the company permission to share data for research, so your DNA test may help advance medical science.

While the top DNA testing companies for consumers can all provide you with valuable information, some differences in the way that they collect samples or provide reports may cause you to prefer one over another. No matter which test you choose, you can gain more if you can convince family members to also take their tests. This makes a home DNA test kit a great gift for holidays and birthdays.

Sponsored content disclosure: Some of the services and products listed may compensate Cake if you purchase or sign up. This helps us keep Cake free for you. We only feature reputable companies that we trust and strongly recommend.

Sources:

1. Regaldo, Antonio. "2017 was the year consumer DNA testing blew up." MIT Technology Review, 12 Feb 2018,  www.technologyreview.com/s/610233/2017-was-the-year-consumer-dna-testing-blew-up/

2. Fletcher, Jake.  "5 Tips for Discovering Biological Family with AncestryDNA." Ancestry, 7 Dec 2017, blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2017/12/07/5-tips-for-discovering-biological-family-with-ancestrydna/

3. Fox, Maggie. "FDA Approves 23andMe's At-Home DNA Tests for 10 Diseases." NBCNews, 6 Apr 2017, www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/fda-approves-23andme-s-home-dna-tests-10-diseases-n743416

4. Coakley, Louise. "What types of DNA tests are available? " Genie1, 26Mar 2015, www.genie1.com.au/blog/59-dna-test-types-available

5. Copeland, Libby. "Who was she? A DNA test only opened new mysteries." The Washington Post Online, 27 July 2017,www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/lifestyle/she-thought-she-was-irish-until-a-dna-test-opened-a-100-year-old-mystery/

6. Toone, Trent. "Pastor abandoned as baby uses DNA kit to find her cousin more than 50 years later." WRAL.com, 20 Mar 2018,www.wral.com/pastor-abandoned-as-baby-uses-dna-kit-to-find-her-cousin-more-than-50-years-later/17429721/