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The limits of ancestry DNA tests, explained

The First Step

DNA tests are still considered estimates, due to imperfect data.

When a person wanting to give the test provides the DNA sample through the saliva, the company checks for variance in the saliva, as 99.9 percent of the DNA is the same in humans.

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The limits of ancestry DNA tests, explained

The limits of ancestry DNA tests, explained

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/1/28/18194560/ancestry-dna-23-me-myheritage-science-explainer

vox.com

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Key Ideas

Human DNA is a Puzzle

In genetic ancestry testing, even identical twins who have virtually the same DNA may or may not get the same results.

Different DNA companies can show different results, in the case of twins.

A Booming Business

Consumer genetic testing is expanding as more than 26 million people have taken this kind of test, according to the MIT Technology Review.

The First Step

DNA tests are still considered estimates, due to imperfect data.

When a person wanting to give the test provides the DNA sample through the saliva, the company checks for variance in the saliva, as 99.9 percent of the DNA is the same in humans.

99.9 percent Accuracy

Even a 99.9 percent accuracy can result in discrepancies because, with 1 million genome places, there is a chance of 1000 errors.

Ancestry and Heritage

Human history is complicated and messy, and cannot be tracked fully with a DNA test.

DNA ancestry tests aren't completely linked to the heritage. There can be some ancestors from which we haven't inherited any DNA.

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DNA home test variances

Many who have done a DNA home test begin to question their family heritage and wonder if they might have been misled. However, taking DNA tests from different companies reveal wildly varying results. There are a few reasons for this: 

  • The companies are only looking at very recent DNA samples, from a relatively small group, in one specific database.
  • The databases are skewed towards different parts of the world. Some have more American customers and other more British or Australian customers.
  • These companies don't ask about the genetics of the past, and which of those past inferred genetic clusters we get our ancestry from.
  • We probably inherit very few genes from our ancestors. DNA is inherited in “chunks” that break up the further back in time you go.
  • There are ancestors from whom you inherit no DNA.

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Different Outcomes

We're all different. If we are all on the same weight-loss diet, there will be various outcomes. Some people will lose a lot, some will lose a little, and a few will even gain weight.

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Genetics And Nutrition

Scientists are continually finding links between genetics and nutrition. Many of us have a gene called FTO that makes us more likely to be overweight. You can get a genetic test to tell which variant of the FTO gene you happen to have.

However, scientists who study the genetics of nutrition think it’s premature to base nutritional advice on your DNA. That FTO gene, for example, has only been shown to make a few pounds’ difference in body weight.

Nutritional Genetic Testing

The coded messages of your DNA are billions of letters (nucleotides) long. Personalized nutrition companies only care about a few of your DNA letters and can tell you which "variant" you have at each of those locations (known as SNPs) along your DNA strands.

Genetic testing companies can learn what SNP variants you have by supplying them with a vial of spit.

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