How accurate is 23andMe?

| December 10, 2012 |
Thumbnail

My initial inclination in this post was to discuss a recent ordering snafu which resulted in many of my friends being quite peeved at 23andMe. But browsing through their new ‘ancestry composition’ feature I thought I had to discuss it first, because of some nerd-level intrigue. Though I agree with many of Dienekes concerns about this new feature, I have to admit that at least this method doesn’t give out positively misleading results. For example, I had complained earlier that ‘ancestry painting’ gave literally crazy results when they weren’t trivial. For example, it said I was ~60 percent European, which makes some coherent sense in their non-optimal reference population set, but then stated that my daughter was >90 percent European. Since 23andMe did confirm she was 50% identical by descent with me these results didn’t make sense; some readers suggested that there was a strong bias in their algorithms to assign ambiguous genomic segments to ‘European’ heritage (this was a problem for East Africans too).

View the original article here: Is Daniel MacArthur ‘desi’?

  • Lloyd Barnhill

    Curious…… I had the 23andme test as well as i was curious about the total make up of native American in my ancestry, seeing very strong native American features in my immediate family as well as a family history on the paternal side that indicates a large majority of either cherokee or Apache (stories are confusing). Imagine my surprise at a result that indicates 0.0% native American! given our family history and clear physical features, I cannot help but wonder of the accuracy of these tests.

    • sunshine

      Same. I have Ojibwe heritage (my dad was raised on the reservation) and the results came back 0.0% Native American.

      • Lloyd Barnhill

        Just fraudulent the way this is advertised. Clearly they don’t have enough data yet for the type of comparisons they are claiming (and charging $99 for)

      • ksyushenka

        I don’t think mine was accurate either. My mother has jet black hair, dark skin, she’s AK native but she gets mistaken for being Pinoy all the time. I came back with a huge section listed as ‘unknown’, It’s probably a good service for those of mostly European descent but it was kind of a letdown for me. My father was adopted so I still know very little.

      • IrishAllAlong

        Disagree with some of the replies on this thread… Your genetic results and your physical features may not correlate the way you may expect it to. I think most of us expect our oral history to closely match the 23andme results and for our children’s results to be exactly half of what both parents pass on to them. That isn’t how biology works (all the time). Two of my cousins (they are sisters) took the 23andme test because their physical features are vastly different than one another. One has green eyes and pale skin and the other has brown eyes and olive skin despite having the same parents. I took the test and learned that I’m 40% Irish. Visually and culturally, I identify with the Black community but confirmed my “Irish blood” when I sent my raw data to another genetics lab. More amazing, only 11.2% was attributed to Sub-Saharan Africa. The results were surprising however as a scientist, I know that the “outside” of us doesn’t always match the “inside” of us. I think 23andme is solid.

        • Mark Newman

          yes, but oral history is history

    • Cheshire_Waltz

      Okay I was interested in seeing if there was any Asian or Native American in me and it came back as very little. When looking at some of my grandparents it makes me wonder how accurate it is, and looking at some of the comments online makes me wonder even more.

    • Lea Chaney Hunter

      same thing happened to me. My grandfather was half Creek Indian. My grandmother was Cherokee and Sioux Indian and yet I got 0 % native american results in my 23andme profile it has to be inaccurate

      • musings2

        I do think it has to do with comparisons that they make with an existing database. I was not too surprised to discover East Asian ancestry (a very small amount corresponding to one ancestor about five generations back), but they cannot pinpoint it because I don’t think they have tested enough people. If they test Native Americans in the present society, they are rarely going to find someone who is “pure” either. Perhaps someone in a remote jungle in Brazil might be, maybe. So it’s just easier to say “East Asian”, although I am pretty sure I am descended from Algonquin people who have probably been intertwined with my colonial era family from the start. It’s a pretty long chunk of heredity along one chromosome, but there was probably a lot more in my paternal grandfather’s line and my father even looked like a portrait of a Shinnecock tribal member – straight hair, smooth hairless arms and legs, distinctive facial features. Yet my dad would only have been less than a percent as well – about .6%. Sometimes phenotypes come on stronger than genotypes. Most of us would agree that Jackie Kennedy looked very French, but her genealogy puts her at 1/8, as an example.

    • Mark Newman

      My grandfather was born on the rez. My results said I had 0.5% Native American ancestry. I know this is wrong. Like you said? Based on what I absolutely know (and not hearsay) about my family history? This result cannot be correct. My mother is half Shawnee and my father is one fourth Cherokee. Something is wrong with their testing.

  • Lloyd Barnhill

    Simply fraudulent what they are charging people $99 bucks for at 23andMe.com

  • Lloyd Barnhill

    Just heard on the news that the FDA has ordered 23andMe to cease selling or marketing this service altogether. Results regarding health risks are wildly inaccurate

    • http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/ Jon Entine

      Lloyd, the FDA did not find that the results regarding health are “wildly inaccurate”. They found that the results could be misinterpreted–but that’s true for many screening tests. The GLP will be addressing the nuances of the FDA’s decision in two articles over the next two days.

  • KR

    I’ve heard that this is the problem with genetic testing in general, not just with 23andme. I’m guessing this is because they have more data from certain countries and ethnicities than others.

  • bob walker

    Hahaha im More native merican than you guys a Entire 0,1! thats what 23andme gave me But..they also said i was 1.1% african