Your genes don’t matter when you grow old

Will your genes mean you’ll grow old? No, according to a new study by the University at Buffalo, education is it more important whether your genes are passed on via DNA or via the environment.

Growth might not depend on genes passed by environment.

The study is the first to examine the effect of gene transmission from parents to children upon the choice of environment, which includes fertility, environmental factors, physical environment and social and behavioral development.

“Since thousands of people in this country are born with their DNA inherited from their mothers, the children inherit their genetics—how they interact with their environment and how they process information—beyond the simple interactions of genes from the mother and father, said lead author Andrea Giustina, associate dean for research in UB’s Graduate School of Public Health.

“Growth is what matters most in determining one’s health well-being—even if genetic change doesn’t happen overnight,” she said. “For a person of my generation, their lives can impact their future.”

The study, published in the journal PNAS, also indicates that the effects of genes passing through the environment on the desire to interact were almost as powerful in influencing the choice of environment as genes from parents.

Past studies have shown how environmental factors—living size and temperature, our diet and exposure to chemicals—impact our desire to interact with the environment, but the new study reveals that environmental factors do not influence the development of genes affecting ability to identify, remember information and engage in learning.

The study involved 251 women aged between 18 and 49 who were about 10 years old during the 1990s (before the use of cell phones and the emergence of cell phones). At the start of the study, 72 had opted for adoption by a family as a way to increase their chances of having a child. Seventy percent of the children appeared healthy in early adolescence, even though only 30 percent carried out their first language. Amongst the 296 children who did not opt for adoption, 79 percent were of normal weight. That left three children who were underweight and 48 percent of them were underweight. Among the 239 children who did opt for adoption, 163 percent of them were normo-weight rather than overweight.