LivingDNA is a company founded in part to help the world defeat racism with genetic testing. Founded in the UK, the company has established initiatives to educate students on genetic ancestry and create a worldwide family tree.
The company’s ancestry DNA test kit is one of the most specific in the game. Unlike many other companies, LivingDNA has a strong privacy guarantee and will only use your data in research, and only if they have your explicit consent. Founded in 2002, the company has grown enormously. Unlike other companies that spend much of their money on marketing, LivingDNA has invested enormous amounts into making their ancestry testing services the best in the biz!
LivingDNA- Advantages and Disadvantages
Check out this executive summary of this LivingDNA review, and see the whole thing below!
- The most specific ancestry service in the business
- High specificity in the UK region, plus the best African coverage (72 regions!)
- Over 150 world regions with reference populations
- Collaborates with 100+ international scientist
- Does not sell your data to third parties (like pharmaceutical companies)
- Founded on the idea that genetic testing can beat racism
- Limited user base
- Smaller company
- No information on health or medical genetic factors
Our Rating: 88.3%
LivingDNA Review’s Essential Data
|Can be used for||Genealogy search, Deep Ancestry reports|
|DNA collection||Cheek Swab|
|Number of SNPs tested||4,700 mtDNA
22,500 Y-DNA638,000 Autosomal
|DNA sample stored||Yes, unless you revoke consent|
|Platform matching for family||No|
|Geographical analysis of ancestry||Yes, with detailed reports on Maternal and Paternal haplotypes and potential migrations|
|Special Features||Allows users to analyze their data on a platform which also gives detailed history on the events of the time. The company also produces an individualized coffee-table book for users, which explains the reports and scientific content.|
|Number of users||Unknown|
|Ownership||DNA Worldwide Group|
|Address||Frome, Somerset, England|
|Client Reviews||Few client reviews available|
Company background for LivingDNA
LivingDNA is owned by a parent company, DNA Worldwide Group. Set up in 2002, the company is based out of Frome, England. Though the company started small and mostly served customers from the United Kingdom, their business grew rapidly. The company has a mission to “dissolve the concept of race” through an understanding of human ancestry.
In 2017, the company started to realize its mission of eliminating racism, by starting the One Family World Project. The project aims to create a single, worldwide family tree based on their user’s DNA. Eventually, users will be able to accurately pinpoint their family history to very specific geographic locations. Currently, LivingDNA is living up to this mission, as it has the most regional ethnicities of any ancestry testing company, and are well on the way to producing the most comprehensive human family tree. Another project LivingDNA started includes teaching school children about human genetics and ancestry.
The company prides itself on not selling aggregate genetic information, and only uses DNA data for internal research projects like the projects described above. Users must first consent to be a part of these studies before their data is incorporated. The founders of LivingDNA, David and Hannah Nicholson, truly want to empower people through the amazing scientific truths that DNA testing can illuminate.
LivingDNA’s Offerings Review
Are you interested in DNA testing, but don’t know where to start? The Starter Kit from LivingDNA was designed for you. The Starter Kit gives you basic ancestry and wellness reports. While these reports contain far less information than you will get with more advanced reports, this kit is one of the cheapest ways to get your DNA data analyzed.
Plus, the kit gives you two great options for moving forward. First, you can easily upgrade the starter kit to include any of the services LivingDNA offers. These upgrades are cheaper than a new DNA kit, because the price does not include your DNA sequencing. That has already been completed. Alternatively, LivingDNA allows users to download their raw DNA data from a starter kit. Then, you can take this raw DNA data and use it at a number of third-party DNA analysis sites. Many of these companies offer a free (or very cheap) analysis of various aspects of your DNA including health, nutrition, ancestry, and more. But, just realize that once you transfer your DNA, LivingDNA can no longer protect the privacy of your DNA data (which they do very well).
Full Ancestry Kit
The Full Ancestry kit includes a DNA test kit and lifetime access to their platform. This means that as they discover new information about your ancestry, your results will be automatically updated. On their platform, users can learn about which regional ethnic groups they are related to. Plus, if you opt-into the Family Networks service, you can find DNA matches from around the world. The results included are based on autosomal, Y-DNA, and mtDNA. This means that LivingDNA can track both where your individual genes came from, and which maternal and paternal haplogroups you belong to.
This means that the platform will analyze your autosomal DNA for matches to various ethnic groups. The results of this analysis will show you a percentage breakdown of your genetics, based on 150 world regional ethnicities (currently the highest number offered from any company). Your maternal and paternal haplotypes are also analyzed, which is based on mtDNA and Y-DNA respectively. This can track your maternal and paternal lines to around 80,000 years ago! LivingDNA also offers a unique feature in that it can provide a historical context for the time-period and place that your ancestors lived. For many users, this is a fun and informative tool.
The Full Ancestry kit is only $79, which is a great value. For this price you get your genes analyzed, and get lifetime access to the platform, your results, and any updates the company creates. The fact that your mtDNA and Y-DNA are also analyzed for free is a huge value, considering that some DNA testing services charge hundreds of dollars for each of these tests. Plus, LivingDNA has 150 ethnic regions they can match you to. This is more than double the amount offered by Ancestry, and nearly 4 times the amount offered by 23andMe.
For an additional $69, users can receive a personalized book that walks them through their genetic testing results. The book details many of the same aspects as the platform, showing what percentage of various ethnicities contributed to your DNA, and where those groups originated from. The book also details your haplotypes, and any migrations your ancestors may have been a part of. It is a very visual and appealing way to share your results with friends and family.
In addition, the book discusses the science behind ancestry testing and what the results can tell you. It is bound in hardcover and can be kept personally or shared with friends and family. The book can be selected as an additional option when purchasing a kit on the company’s website.
As part of their mission to help people use DNA results to better their lives, LivingDNA started offered a Wellness Kit. The Wellness Kit looks at aspects of your DNA related to nutrition and exercise. This includes traits like your food metabolism, vitamin response, and traits related to how exercise affects your body. Plus, you will also get recommendations on nutrition and exercise that you can use to build an effective and customized diet and exercise program. You can see an example of one of the traits offered below:
The Wellness Kit is $99, which is a pretty good value. The nutrition and exercise recommendations are well-explained, and can definitely give you a leg-up on your weight loss and fitness goals. However, LivingDNA does not offer other health-related trait analyses, such as your risk of breast cancer or Alzheimer’s. While this may seem like a loss in value, this actually fits in perfectly with LivingDNA’s commitment to providing only quality information.
They point users towards a qualified geneticist or health-care provider for disease-related information, which can be very difficult to understand, and is not actionable (simply knowing your risk doesn’t actually decrease your risk). Other companies that provide this information often leave users with more questions than answers in regards to their health.
Wellness & Ancestry Kit
For those that want the best of both world, you can get the Wellness & Ancestry Kit for $149. While this is a little cheaper than combo kits from other companies, it is much more useful. Their ancestry results are some of the best in the industry, and their wellness recommendations are actionable and are much more valuable than simply knowing how your genes may affect your risk for various diseases.
While it would be nice to see some Carrier Status reports included, the combo kit is still an excellent value. You really only need Carrier Status reports if you have a family history of genetic disease, and having a doctor explain these results is highly recommended. As the LivingDNA website points out, it is probably better to get disease-related information from an actual doctor.
What separates LivingDNA from other companies in that regard?
LivingDNA was founded in the UK, and has its largest base of customers there. While some customers initially complained about this, the company has expanded its reference populations dramatically. Recently, they added over 72 different African ethnicities. This brought the company to over 150 regions total, which is more than double the number of regions offered by the largest provider of ancestry DNA tests, Ancestry.com.
The company’s haplogroup analysis contains a high number of sites, which means that as their database grows, their results are likely to be the most accurate. The company’s platform offers an interactive and unique way to look at these results, including in pedigree or geographic form.
The Ancestry Book is certainly a unique offering, and no other ancestry companies offer any commemorative merchandise materials with their DNA tests. Though several companies offer a family tree service, LivingDNA does not. Instead, they offer a variety of resources and historical context to help you find evidence to complete a family tree, with results that are much more specific and informative than most ancestry testing companies.
How it works, what will your kit include?
The test kit you receive in the mail will have a small cheek swab. Wipe the swab along the inside of your cheek, and store it in the provided container. Put it in the pre-paid envelope, and ship it off to the laboratory. This company takes around 6-8 weeks to process the sample, which is typical for most DNA testing companies. At that time, you will be able to login to your account and review your results. Then, you can purchase merchandise add-ons, such as the Ancestry Book.
Understanding the results
On the LivingDNA platform, you will be able to review a number of aspects of your ancestry. The company provides ethnicity matching, as well as haplotype information. These different results can tell you a number of things.
When they analyze your autosomal DNA, they are looking for where those genes come from. By comparing the sequences in your DNA to families who have lived in the same area for generations, the company can tell where your genes originated. This report will show the amount of each ethnicity that contributed to your genome. The company has created reference populations for 150 regions, giving you the most detailed analysis of your recent (past 1000 years) ancestry.
In analyzing your Y-DNA and mtDNA, the company can determine your maternal and paternal haplotypes. Y-DNA is passed only through the male line of your family, so it cannot be assessed for females. The mtDNA is found in mitochondria and is passed down from your mother. By analyzing matches in these segments of DNA, a fairly accurate estimate can be created of your deep ancestry (80,000 years ago). These reports can detail which ancient groups you are related to, and how they traveled around the globe over time.
The Ancestry Book, if you choose to make the additional purchase, contains all of these results, and scientific explanations of how the process works.
With the Wellness results, you will get insights into your nutrition and fitness traits. These traits look at how you metabolize food, how you recover from sports-related injuries, and what your DNA says about what types of exercise will be most effective for your body. Using the results, it is feasible that a person could build a comprehensive and effective weight loss or fitness program!
Will your data be shared?
According to LivingDNA, absolutely not.
Unlike many companies, LivingDNA will not share your data with for-profit companies. Many companies protect your personal information (such as your name and credit card number), but they sell genetic data in aggregate. LivingDNA makes a point of not adhering to this industry-standard practice. In fact, one of the main things found in researching LivingDNA is their commitment to keeping DNA data private. In fact, LivingDNA only works with academic institutions when researching your DNA. Further, you must opt-in to the research studies.
This information can be found in their Privacy Centre. Like other companies, they allow you to reserve the right to withdraw your consent at any time. The company will destroy your sample, and your information will be erased.
Media coverage and user opinions
Like other DNA testing companies, there are a number of editorial reviews online about LivingDNA, as well as a wide variety of media coverage. Notable for this company is their take on data privacy. Where other companies shy from the privacy issue, multiple publications have published LivingDNA’s commitment to privacy concerns, and their unwillingness to work with pharmaceutical companies. Many articles also note that while LivingDNA may be one of the smaller genetic testing companies, they claim to offer the highest detail ancestry service available.
- Express – LivingDNA takes care with customers as they journey back into their past
- Popular Science – Here’s what kind of data genetics testing companies can share
- ScienceNews – DNA testing can bring families together, but gives mixed answers on ethnicity
- SomersetLive – Frome based ancestry company want to DNA test school children to help combat racism
On the web, LivingDNA gets a pretty fair shake. On Trustpilot, there are 145 reviews that give LivingDNA an average of 3/5 stars. However, a number of bloggers have tested the product and most found it to be very informative. There are some user complaints about specificity and accuracy, but most of these comments are several years old. LivingDNA has come a long way since these comments were mad. In general, users seem to be impressed with the detailed historical information LivingDNA can give them.
Users who are happy with LivingDNA mentioned the following points:
- The reports are detailed and informative
- The platform is easy to use, and has several great features
- Your Maternal and Paternal Haplotype can be tracked geographically
- The platform has detailed information about UK ancestry
- Overall a good value for your money
- You data is VERY secure, and the company won’t use your data in research without consent
Users giving Ancestry a 1-star review mentioned the following worthy points:
- If you do not have ancestors from the UK, do not expect specific results
- The platform does not offer a feature to find family members
- The results are complicated, and not easy to understand
- The company is in growing pains, which can mean poor customer service
- LivingDNA takes 10-12 weeks to process, longer than some companies
- Though your data is not sold, the company reserves the right to research it themselves
LivingDNA Review: Executive Summary
Reputation and credibility - 90%
Diversity of tests - 94%
User acceptance - 89%
Quality of results - 85%
Summary of our findings
LivingDNA offers one of the most accurate and thorough ancestry DNA tests. This company has a well-developed mission statement and also helps educate users on the relatedness of all people to combat racism. Compared to other ancestry companies, LivingDNA has a leg up in terms of price, as the one-time payment includes lifetime access. Other companies may charge a subscription fee for updates like this. LivingDNA has, by far, the largest number of regional reference populations, and offers their tests at very competitive prices.
Plus, the company fully explains all of their results and does not give you anything that will leave your head spinning. With so many companies trying to push DNA kits onto people, LivingDNA has stayed true to its core value of trying to improve people’s lives with science. Unfortunately for the company, many potential users did not see their enormous value and chose other companies (mostly Ancestry and 23andMe). People wanting the most value out of their ancestry DNA test should strongly consider LivingDNA.