There is nothing more fascinating than tracing our ancestral roots. Knowing where our ancestors hailed from can help us fill in vital gaps in our family tree, but it can also allow us to gain a stronger sense of identity, and can even help us lose weight or optimize our exercise regime.
Consumer DNA testing kits are becoming increasingly popular. Some people argue that in the face of division and separatism, DNA testing can actually do more than just give us an individual sense of identity.
It can prove to us how intertwined different nations are, how migration has always taken place in the world, and how we all have ancestral DNA lineages that are more complex - and more connected - than we might have guessed.
Not only this, but DNA testing can also help us in other ways. For example, health DNA testing can tell us about our response to different vitamins, our metabolism, and provide us with individually-tailored exercise regimes or nutrition plans which enable us to achieve optimal health and quality of life.
There are now more consumer DNA tests on the market than ever before, and with these all boasting different - or not so different - benefits, it can be difficult to choose the best one for your needs.
That’s why we provide in-depth reviews of the most popular DNA tests on the market: to ensure you can make a fully-informed purchase. Today we’re going to be reviewing Living DNA, which offers ancestry and wellbeing testing.
Keen to find out whether this kit lives up to its advertisements? Keep reading to find out more…
About Living DNA
Living DNA is a UK-based company specializing in DNA testing and analysis. Their head office is in the UK and they have facilities in the USA and Denmark.
Founded in 2016 by Tricia Nicholson, David Nicholson, and Hannah Morden-Nicholson, the company began to work with a team of 100 genealogists based around the world.
In July 2018, Living DNA announced and signed a partnership agreement with a British genealogy company Findmypast. By working together, they hoped to provide a more extensive and detailed ancestral DNA testing and analysis service.
About the Living DNA Tests
Living DNA ancestry: The Living DNA ancestry kit offers advanced ancestry DNA reports, which aim to deliver an “enriching view of your ancestry from 80,000 years ago until recent times.”
One of the stand-out features of this test is its unrivaled worldwide ancestry results which span over 150 regions across the globe. The company also offers a more specific insight into particular regions, displaying sub-regional breakdowns to provide a deeper understanding of your ancestral lineage.
The test also gives you the option of signing up to Living DNA’s Family Networks and connect with global users to see how much DNA you share.
Living DNA wellbeing: This DNA testing kit is focused on your health and wellbeing, to allow you to better understand connections between genetics and lifestyle choices so you can improve your quality of life through small changes to your diet and lifestyle.
The test indicates factors such as your response to certain vitamins, your metabolic rate, and how to optimize your diet and exercise regime to optimize your health.
Wellbeing and Ancestry test: Living DNA also offers a combined test so you can get the benefits of both of the above kits. This test offers a complete and comprehensive experience: providing the benefits of both the wellbeing and ancestry DNA kit.
It allows you to understand the full depths of your ancestry, bringing family stories to life whilst also unlocking goal-orientated wellbeing reports so you can achieve a greater quality of life.
Genealogical DNA testing looks at specific locations of a person's genome, in order to find or verify ancestral genealogical relationships or to estimate the ethnic mixture of an individual as part of genetic genealogy - although this is usually slightly less reliable.
Different testing companies use different ethnic reference groups and different matching algorithms, so ethnicity estimates for an individual will vary between tests.
Three principal types of genealogical DNA tests are available, with each looking at a different part of the genome. These are all useful for different types of genealogical research: autosomal (used to calculate ethnicity), mitochondrial (mtDNA - passed from mother to child), and Y-DNA (only males have this).
Autosomal tests tend to result in a large number of DNA matches along mixed male and female lines, and each match will come with an estimated distance in the family tree.
However, this also depends on how much DNA is inherited by each tested person from their common ancestors, and precise conclusions can only be made for close relations because of this.
Set-up and Interface
Like most consumer DNA tests, you’ll need to activate your kit before using it. Living DNA’s activation process is quick and simple to do.
The process requires you to submit personal details and to give your consent for your DNA to be tested, which is a legal requirement.
- Sign in to your Living DNA account. If you don’t already have an account, you can create a Living DNA account on their website, here.
- Once you've logged into your portal you can click the option to “Activate” your kit in the top left corner.
- Enter your activation code, which you'll find in your DNA kit. This is 12 characters long and will contain letters and numbers. Ensure the letters are in capitals. Once you’ve done this, then press continue.
- You’ll then need to select who the kit is for. Bear in mind that if it is for someone other than yourself you’ll need their consent to do the test.
- Input your details. The date of birth should be in the MM/DD/YYYY format. Once your details are inputted correctly your kit will be activated.
- Providing you have the right details to hand, and the necessary permissions, the set-up for the Living DNA kits is quick and simple.
How to Do the Test
Whether you choose the Living DNA Ancestry, Well being or combined tests, the process is more or less the same:
1. Simply purchase the kit of your choice online and it will be sent to your chosen address.
2. You’ll need to collect your DNA sample by rubbing the mouth swab on the inside of your cheek for 30 - 60 seconds. Then return the swab in the free return post bag.
3. You’ll need to wait about 6 - 8 weeks for your results. You can use the online portal to track your sample at every stage.
What You’ll Find Out
Living DNA uses SNP chips to provide reports on autosomal ancestry, Y, and mtDNA ancestry.
If you take the Living DNA ancestry test, or the combined ancestry and wellbeing test, you’ll be provided with an in-depth insight into your ancestral lineage. Living DNA analyses your ancestry from 80,000 years ago all the way up until more recent times.
It also provides specific information regarding sub-regional breakdowns. For example, if you’re tracing your ancestry back to Africa, you may be aware that a lack of DNA data from the continent means that with many DNA tests you’re limited in the information you’ll receive.
However, Living DNA claims to offer the world's most detailed African ancestry breakdown of 72 distinct regions, which is five times more than any other company.
You’ll also be provided with extended ancestry reports on your maternal and, if male, paternal, lineage so you can pinpoint where your ancestry comes from.
The same goes for other regions, such as Britain, Ireland, or Europe. Rather than providing broad regions your DNA can be connected to, Living DNA aims to break it down into sub-regions for a more specific and accurate insight.
You’ll also be able to match with relatives you never knew existed through Living DNA’s DNA matching tool which is able to pinpoint genetic matches all over the world. You can opt into Family Networks and connect with global users to see how much DNA you share.
If you purchase Living DNA’s wellbeing, or combined ancestry and wellbeing test, Living DNA will use your DNA sample to better understand how different food, vitamins, and exercises affect your body.
For example, you may find out that you’ll thrive with extra vitamin D, or that the best exercise for you is weight training. Living DNA analyzes your information to provide you with tailored advice regarding nutrition and fitness, so you can modify your workout regime and diet to improve your overall quality of life.
The only drawback we found with the wellbeing test is that while it’s great for helping you optimize your health and fitness, it would be beneficial to acquire specific information on any inherited diseases.
While the information gained from this DNA test can help you limit your exposure to certain illnesses, it does not indicate those that are inherited, which would be useful.
Privacy and Security
The data and security policy of Living DNA is pretty reassuring and secure. The company won’t sell your data to third parties, is GDPR compliant, and will store your data carefully. If you don’t mind your DNA being used for future research, you can opt-in to this, and opt-out at any time.
The company does however use aggregated data, so if you have a live account with them they will store your genetic data so it can be used to provide further insights or updates if you’ve consented to these.
You may also wish to opt-in to share your DNA data with others in the database to see how much you share.
In terms of security, Living DNA uses secure databases to ensure that your data remains anonymized whenever possible, even when analyzed by laboratory partners.
You’ll be able to delete your data at any point, and the company always asks you to confirm your personal information before speaking with you online or over the phone.
Cost and Value for Money
Living DNA offers some of the most competitive prices when it comes to consumer DNA tests. However, it also provides more bang for your buck, as overall these tests provide more information than the leading competitor.
For example, for less than one hundred dollars you can get a test that will indicate your recent regional ancestry, sub-regional DNA breakdowns, recent DNA connections, extended ancestry, and family DNA matching.
Living DNA also offers some of the broadest and most specific DNA databases available, particularly in terms of sub-regions, such as Africa, which is often limited in other DNA testing kits due to a lack of data in such parts of the world.
LivingDNA, like other consumer DNA kits, are continually trying to push their genetic testing processes to broaden their DNA database, so if you experience a change in your results, this is likely to be because of ongoing upgrades to your results within the ancestry platform as well as updated Haplogroup & Subclade descriptions.
This basically means Living DNA is able to go further into your genetic history to provide you with more of an insight into your past or with a more detailed sub-regional breakdown.
Like all DNA testing, LivingDNA cannot guarantee that every sample can be linked to a Subclade (a subgroup of a haplogroup) or take you as far into your family tree as you may have hoped. In these cases, they will assign the relevant branch in your Haplogroup (ancestral clan) only.
The Haplogroup that is assigned to your sample will depend on which of the markers show up as positive when testing your DNA sample. This varies between different companies, so each company will select markers based on their own criteria and datasets, and so can sometimes deliver different results. This is where the skepticism around the accuracy of DNA testing comes from.
Living DNA uses their custom Sirius chip to provide better representation in a wider range of global populations. The version 2 Sirius chip contains 759,757 autosomal markers, 34216 Y-Chr markers, and 3982 mtDNA markers. This allows them to give more accurate and interesting results to more people, and to make sure that customers are provided with the latest science.
What We Like About Living DNA
- The specificity of the test: Living DNA uses markers from 150 regions across the globe, meaning it can provide sub-regional results in most cases.
- The ease of the test: It’s simple to order and activate, and the test itself is straight-forward.
- The depth of the test: The test offers a comprehensive insight into ancestral links in sub-regions in Africa, Britain, and Europe.
- The choice of tests: choose from the ancestry test, well-being test, or a combined version that offers both.
- The competitive price: Living DNA offers plenty of bang for your buck and is frequently on offer
- Ongoing updates: Living DNA is continually improving and growing its testing methods and database.
What We Didn’t Like
- The well-being test provides you with information regarding your health and fitness, but it would also be useful to gain insight into genetically-inherited illnesses or predispositions to certain conditions.
- You have to wait quite a while for genetic results.
Living DNA is competitively-priced and in-depth home DNA test which competes with the likes of AncestryDNA and 23andMe.
We loved the fact that with Living DNA you can choose from the ancestry version or wellbeing version of the test, or a combined addition that will provide you with both.
The Living DNA test is comprehensive and specific, in most cases highlighting not just your Haplogroup but your Subclave too. It also has an impressive database that spans 150 regions, meaning it’s more likely to show up any links to sub-regions of Africa or Europe, compared with its competitors.
The wellbeing test is also interesting, as not only do you find out certain health traits such as your relationship with various vitamins or foods, and your metabolic rate, but it also provides you with tailored fitness and dietary advice based on these results.
However, our main criticism of the wellbeing DNA test is that it does not provide you with genetically inherited illnesses, which would be helpful, particularly when trying to optimize your daily habits and lifestyle.
Living DNA is continually evolving, so you can expect ongoing updates and changes to your results as Living DNA acquires more samples. The test also gives you the option of sharing your DNA with other potential genetic matches so you can be connected with potential family members.
Overall, the Living DNA test provides you with great bang for your buck and is the perfect first step to unlocking a whole new world of ancestral history that you may otherwise never have known of.