A Detailed Comparison: 23andMe vs. MyHeritage
Introduction to Each Company
23andMe and MyHeritage both offer health information and ancestry DNA test kits, but overall are very different companies.
MyHeritage.com originated in 2003 as a software company dedicated to providing family tree software. Gilad Japhet, the Israeli software engineer that started MyHeritage, still privately owns the company and has greatly expanded its services in the last decade-plus. The company has built one of the world’s largest historical records databases, and started offering genetic testing shortly after the technology emerged. In order to compete with other DNA testing companies, MyHeritage also added health-related DNA testing kits that are competitive with other companies.
While these two companies have very different roots, they are now competing in a very similar space. Both companies offer health screening DNA testing and ancestry DNA testing through a simple cheek swab or saliva sample collection. However, there are several differences within their specific products and methods that may cause you to choose one product over the other. Keep reading to see exactly what each company offers and how they compare to each other!
A Comprehensive Review of Each Product
In general, DNA services group their results in 4 different categories. Genetic risk reports are based on genome-wide correlation studies. In these studies, researchers use statistics and large genetic data sets to see if they can find relationships between certain genes and physical outcomes. Some of these genes are related to breast cancer, heart disease, or other health complications, and may be a risk.
Carrier status reports, on the other hand, represent diseases that are directly caused by mutations in specific genes. Cystic fibrosis, for example, is caused by several different mutations that create faulty protein channels in the cell membrane. Without these channels, the cells do not function properly and cause the symptoms of the disease. Not only are mutations in these genes correlated to disease, but they have also been shown to actually cause the disease through their function.
Wellness and Trait reports are less directly consequential to your health, and the reports are often based on weaker research and correlations compared to other health reports. Wellness reports deal with things like deep sleep, genetic weight, and other traits approximated by big data science. Trait reports deal with more specific proteins that have clear functions, such as your ability to taste bitter chemicals or your potential for hair loss, that are not directly related to health.
Both companies offer an analysis of genetic traits related to health predispositions and genetic diseases. At this point, 23andMe offers the same number of genetic risk reports and far more carrier status reports compared to MyHeritage. MyHeritageDNA doesn’t offer general Trait or Wellness reports. You can see a direct comparison of each category below.
With their large database size advantage, 23andMe is able to offer many Carrier Status tests as well as wellness and trait reports that MyHeritage doesn’t offer… yet. MyHeritage has a special note on their website that they are drastically increasing the reports they offer in the next few months.
Ancestry composition testing is a little more straight-forward compared to genetic health testing. Essentially, the lab measures the genetic variants you carry - both companies test around 700,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Then, companies build reference populations based on families that have lived in an area for a long time. With this, they can estimate where in the world your specific genetic mutations originated - commonly called an ethnicity estimate.
While this is not exactly related to your family tree, it can help you better understand where you inherited your genes from. A bigger reference population carries more samples, which means the reference population more accurately reflects the genes carried in the area. 23andMe likely has larger reference populations in most areas because it simply has more users. This is reflected in the number of geographic regions each company uses. MyHeritageDNA uses about 42 global geographic regions, while 23andMe is able to break it down into over 1000+ much more specific regions.
While 23andMe has far more users and therefore likely has larger reference populations, their ancestry services are only based on your DNA. With MyHeritage, you can actually build a family tree and research your family history. Both sites allow you to search for DNA matches and family members and view a chromosome browser, but only MyHeritageDNA allows you to incorporate those family matches into a family tree file. If you really want to get into amateur genetic genealogy, you can subscribe to different packages for access to a historical records database and unlimited family tree size.
So, 23andMe is great for quick-and-accurate ancestry information while MyHeritage is a global leader in family tree software and has one of the world’s largest historical records databases. The MyHeritage Ancestry test results are about $20 cheaper, but if you want to do actual genealogy research you may end up spending much more on a premium subscription package.
What Makes them Unique?
23andMe has far more users, likely because they were one of the first DNA testing companies on the market and have a wide variety of results. MyHeritage just recently expanded into DNA health testing but has primarily been a genealogy research company, similar to Ancestry.com. While they have far fewer DNA kit testing users compared to 23andMe, they have far more users in general. Upwards of 100 million people have used MyHeritage family tree software, more than 10 times the users 23andMe has. MyHeritage remains unique over 23andMe in that you can really dig deep into your family history and build a family tree along with your ethnicity report.
23andMe is unique in that they were the first and remain one of the best DNA testing companies for health testing. They were one of the first companies to offer an at-home DNA kit of any kind, and have stayed at the forefront of health risks. For example, 23andMe was the first company to get FDA approval to offer an at home analysis for certain diseases, one being Parkinson’s disease. They now have numerous among others they continue to provide tests for that other companies cannot offer. They have one of the largest DNA databases and almost 80% of their customers opt-in for further DNA research. For this reason, 23andMe is uniquely situated to provide the best health-related DNA testing!
Who we recommend should buy each product…
Anyone generally interested in DNA testing should check out the offerings from 23andMe. They are fairly-priced and give you the most bang for your buck. You will get a more detailed ethnicity estimate and more genetic health risk reports. Since the Health + Ancestry reports are the same price from each company, 23andMe’s test has a better value for most people because it has much more comprehensive health reports and ethnicity estimates based on a larger user database.
However, if you are trying to build a family tree based on your DNA results, you may want to use MyHeritage. They allow you to directly incorporate your DNA matches into your family tree, which can help you instantly expand your known family members. Though the premium aspects of this service can be costly, 23andMe does not offer any capabilities beyond DNA matching.
Mix and Match
One of the best ways to maximize what you get from your DNA sample is to mix and match the companies that you use. Since 23andMe has more comprehensive health results, you should start with their Health + Ancestry package. Once your results have been generated, you will be able to download your raw DNA data through your DNA portal.
With this raw DNA data file, you can create a free family tree on MyHeritage and connect with distant relatives. While you will still have to pay for the premium services, it is a good way to get started and get the best of both worlds. Plus, you can search the MyHeritage database for any DNA matches not found in the 23andMe database.
Both companies offer the ability to download your raw data, which you can also use at a number of other sites to learn even more about your DNA. For instance, you can upload your raw DNA data at Genomelink to get many more traits and wellness reports not generated by 23andMe or MyHeritage. Plus, you can also use sites like GEDmatch to find more DNA matches and DNAgedcom to analyze your family tree file and compare it to others.
What other people say about them…
User experience is a very important aspect of any purchase. So, we have compiled the many different customer reviews found across the internet so you can compare 23andMe and MyHeritage directly. Check out all the different reviews below!
You can also see what people on Reddit are saying about 23andMe vs. MyHeritage!
23andMe and MyHeritage both offer Health + Ancestry testing services for $199, before any discounts or sales. However, these sales and discounts can greatly reduce the total price. For instance, at the time this article was written, 23andMe Health + Ancestry test was 50% off, making it only $99.
MyHeritage is slightly cheaper for the basic level DNA ancestry test, at only $79 compared to $99 from 23andMe. However, 23andMe does give you access to a number of general genetic traits in addition to the ancestry test, which partially accounts for the increased cost.
If you are really into ancestry, you may want to check out the different subscription packages MyHeritage has. These packages give you access to historical records and unlimited family tree additions, allowing you to build out a massive family tree based on both your DNA and actual family records. The premium subscription packages range from $129 to $299 per year.
MyHeritage has a long way to go to really compete with 23andMe in health testing. Plus, their ancestry testing may not be as specific or accurate because they have a much smaller DNA database to create reference populations from. However, MyHeritage does offer more comprehensive resources for researching and building a family tree. With their research subscription packages, you can get access to a massive historical database including military records, birth and death records, marriage records, and other documents that have preserved your family history.
23andMe has a great user-interface, and covers many more health traits and general traits based on your DNA. With their database of over 10 million users, 23andMe has the world’s second largest DNA database, and has about 10 times the DNA test users as MyHeritage. But, 23andMe is a much younger company and has only served about 10% of the overall customers MyHeritage has seen. This is reflected slightly in the customer reviews. While products from 23andMe and MyHeritage have almost identical scores, their general company reviews are slightly different. This reflects pre-DNA testing scores from MyHeritage, so it is hard to accurately judge who provides the best DNA test based on customer reviews alone.
Our overall conclusion is that both companies have strong selling points, and the best decision for you really depends what you are looking to get out of your DNA testing experience. 23andMe has a slightly more valuable product when it comes to DNA testing specifically, especially if you are into understanding your health. If you are on a specific ancestry hunt and looking for resources beyond DNA, MyHeritage may be a better choice because it can help you map out your actual family history with real documents and family member profiles. At the end of the day, it is a personal choice, and is dependant on what your DNA discovery goals are. Good luck!
To find out more DNA upload sites, check out our article "The Best DNA Upload Sites"