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What Is The Most Accurate DNA Test?

Written by Samantha Odake, BS (Mechanical Engineering) | Last updated:

DNA testing can help you discover more about your ancestry and health, but with so many on the market, you may wonder: what is the most accurate DNA test? To make sure genetic results are accurate, companies and labs need to take steps to prevent false information. How? Let’s explore here.

How accurate are DNA tests?

DNA testing is a complex process. Before diving into how to choose the most accurate DNA test, let’s first understand how DNA tests work.

Most companies use a process known as genotyping to test DNA. In most cases nowadays, you collect your DNA sample at home, and it is then sent to the designated lab. There, your DNA is extracted and genotyped by using a machine to identify which genetic variants or SNPs you carry.

While genotyping only tests around 0.02% of your DNA, this type of analysis is 99% accurate. Your genotype is very similar to every other person on earth, except for some differences that make you unique. These are the genetic variants used by most companies to identify your heritage and health traits.

Some DNA providers, however, go a step beyond the genotyping process. By applying something called genetic imputation, it’s possible to predict more variants than what is included in a genetic file. SelfDecode, for example, uses cutting-edge AI and machine learning to predict and analyze up to 83 million genetic variants from a typical DNA file with 99.7% accuracy.

The video below can better explain how genetic imputation works and how it can be used to provide the most accurate DNA test:

With that said, DNA testing has become extremely popular. Today, the majority is accurate. Most genetic testing companies use CLIA-certified and CAP-accredited laboratories, which ensures that the results meet industry standards for clinical laboratory testing.

That’s not to say all DNA tests are accurate. For example, Orig3n has been in the midst of some controversies regarding their accuracy. Notably, the company has been reported to be unable to discern between dog and human DNA. Former employees also put into question the accuracy of their reports, claiming that the company tampered with results.

What can affect a DNA test’s accuracy?

There are some factors that can affect how accurate a DNA test is:

  • Genetic variants analyzed
  • Size of database
  • Human error
  • Sample contamination

Some factors you have no direct control over, such as the number of genetic variants analyzed. To make sure you receive the most accurate DNA test results, you can research and compare each company to see which is more likely to provide you with what you need.

Genetic variants analyzed

The number of SNPs or genetic variants analyzed varies depending on the company. Companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry analyze around 650,000 SNPs with their DNA test. Other companies choose to perform whole genome sequencing, in which case they decode the entirety of your genome.

However, this is mostly regarding your raw DNA data. Most companies only look at one or two genetic variants related to a health topic to generate reports. Others, like SelfDecode, analyze tens of thousands of genetic variants per DNA report or health topic. This contributes to SelfDecode providing the most accurate DNA test and analysis possible.

Size of database

When it comes to ancestry, the size of the company’s database, or how many users they have in their system, can play a huge role in how accurate your results are. So, for a more accurate ancestry DNA test, you might want to look for companies with a large and well-maintained dataset. Well-established providers such as 23andMe usually boast a decent database.

Human error

It’s true that no matter how advanced the technology is, there is still a small chance your sample will be subjected to human error. The good news is that most reputable companies have a thorough quality review process to minimize the possibility of this happening.

Sample contamination

It is not very difficult to contaminate a DNA sample. Something as simple as not following the instructions presented with the DNA kit can compromise your results. Most times, the company will notify you if they cannot process a sample. Otherwise, if your contaminated sample is analyzed normally, you might end up with inaccurate results.

An easy way to minimize this risk is to carefully follow the instructions provided with your DNA kit. These can include not eating or drinking prior to collecting your sample, among other things. Most DNA tests come sealed to avoid contamination, so be sure to only open it when you are ready to provide your sample.

Another thing that can influence the ability of the lab to process your sample is if you are not able to provide enough saliva. In this case, there are some easy tips you can try to help you during collection, such as making chewing movements with your mouth.

Tips for the most accurate DNA test sample

How accurate are DNA tests for health?

How are genetic risks calculated? After processing your DNA, companies use statistics to analyze your genetic data and identify which genetic traits or conditions you are predisposed to based on data from scientific studies. These studies use complex statistical methods to identify relationships between genetic variants and health conditions.

Consequently, the accuracy of a DNA result can depend on how accurate the studies the results are based on are. Factors such as the number of participants and how many ethnicities were tested can play a role. One way to verify the strength of the correlation is to consult the original paper.

If that’s something you are interested in, be sure to check if the DNA company you choose provides links to the scientific studies they used to generate your DNA reports. Unfortunately, not all companies share this information directly in the reports.

As discussed earlier, the number of genetic variants analyzed by a company can have a big impact on how accurate your DNA results are.

Some genetic conditions are caused by mutations in specific genes, such as Huntington’s Disease. However, most health conditions, like high blood pressure and cholesterol, are influenced by many different genetic mutations.

All of these variations in your DNA are accounted for and used to determine your genetic risk scores, even those that may have a minimal effect – when added up, they can have a big impact. By considering more genetic variants, your genetic risks are more likely to be accurate.

Unfortunately, most DNA companies that offer genetic risk scores only analyze a handful of variants related to a specific health condition. That’s why some results may be imprecise, meaning you will not be receiving a complete picture of your genetic risks.

How accurate are ancestry DNA tests?

Ancestry tests will give you an ancestral breakdown based on your DNA results. What might not be clear to users is that these estimates may change over time as the company expands their database.

To keep it simple, your DNA is compared to that of others to see how close you are matched. Considering this, the most accurate DNA test for ancestry most likely includes those with the largest database.

To avoid or minimize any inaccuracy regarding this point, one thing you can do is pay attention to the company’s database size, or the number of users they have in their system. This way, you will most likely receive accurate ancestry estimates and relative matches.

How accurate are saliva DNA tests?

Saliva DNA tests are an easy and painless way to collect DNA samples, and they are, in fact, accurate. As we’ve discussed before, only the sample collection is performed at home, and if you follow the instructions correctly, you minimize the chances of contaminating your sample. 

Why SelfDecode provides the most accurate DNA test for health

Most DNA companies only analyze a handful of variants per health topic. On top of that, many are using outdated methods to analyze your DNA, which means that the information you receive from them might not be the most accurate.

SelfDecode is a DNA testing and analysis company that focuses on health. By using cutting-edge AI and machine learning, SelfDecode can predict and analyze up to 83 million genetic variants from a typical DNA file with an accuracy of 99.8%. This way, you can get more information on your genes without having to pay for expensive whole genome sequencing.

By analyzing tens of thousands of variants in every DNA report, SelfDecode provides the most accurate genetic risk scores and personalized health recommendations based on your DNA.

Most accurate DNA test for health

SelfDecode DNA Wellness Report That Analyzes Over 1 Million Genetic Variants

The SelfDecode team includes over 60 highly skilled PhDs, MDs, NDs, and software engineers to make sure you receive the most accurate DNA test and analysis that is supported by scientific evidence.

Comparisons

 

SelfDecode

23andMe

Ancestry

Living DNA

Products

DNA testing and analysis, research-based personalized health recommendations, patient and provider options

DNA testing, wellness and ancestry reports, traits

DNA testing, ancestry reports, traits

DNA testing, ancestry reports, limited health reports

Genes & gene variants analyzed

Up to 83 million genetic variants

~640,000 SNPs

~640,000 SNPs

~700,000 SNPs

Raw data download

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Raw data upload

Yes

No

No

Yes

Cost

$97 – $387

$99 – $199

$99 – $198+

Free – $169

Conclusion

Choosing the most accurate DNA test can be difficult with so many options on the market. Factors such as human error and sample contamination might play a role. To minimize the odds of you contaminating your sample, thoroughly read and follow the instructions provided to you by the company.

The number of variants analyzed and the company’s database are some of the things to consider to make sure you receive the most precise results. More well-known companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry have a solid dataset of millions of users, which is important if you want to learn more about your ancestry.

When it comes to your health, one important factor to consider is the number of variants analyzed. Unfortunately, most companies do not take into account all SNPs that are linked to a health trait or condition. Because of this, you might receive imprecise results that do not correspond to the fullest picture of your health.

If you are interested in a gene-based approach to your health, you should consider SelfDecode. SelfDecode analyzes up to 83 million genetic variants to give your genetic risk scores and personalized health recommendations based on your DNA.

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About the Author

Samantha Odake

Samantha Odake

BS (Mechanical Engineering)
Samantha is an engineer turned writer with a passion for helping people.

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