In the last few decades, we’ve learned a lot about how our genes determine or influence our health and biological makeup. Scientists once thought if you were genetically predisposed to a disease, such as diabetes, you were sure to be diagnosed with it. However, newer research has shown that your genes may increase your chances of a condition, but your diet and health can lower your risk.
Through ongoing studies, research has also revealed how everything from your food preferences to your workout routine may relate to your genetics, and that how you eat, sleep, and exercise can change gene expressions. Let’s look at ten habits, traits, and preferences your genes can predetermine.
1. A Love for Dessert
Saying you have a sweet tooth isn’t a cop out for eating that brownie. Instead, you might be able to blame it on your genes. In a 2008 study, researchers discovered that people with a DNA difference in their SLCa2 gene consumed more sugar than people without this DNA difference, potentially due to being less sensitive to the amount of sugar in their blood. Having the amino acid Isoleucine at 110 may be the root of your sweet tooth.
2. A Hatred for Cilantro
Cilantro—some people love it, some hate it, and it might just be the result of genetics. For many people, cilantro serves as a zesty garnish, but for 4 to 14% of the world’s population, cilantro tastes soapy and unappetizing, and the blame may be on genes. One study determined that many people who dislike cilantro have OR6A2, a group of olfactory-receptor genes that make them more inclined to pick up on aldehyde chemical smells. While the jury is still out on whether or not this is the cause, it’s worth noting that aldehydes are found in both cilantro and soap.
3. A High Tolerance for Pain and Spicy Foods
Redheads are often stereotyped as feisty. While that may not be accurate, the origin of this myth may relate to a real genetics study. According to Science Nordic, the gene MCR1, which gives people red hair, is also associated with higher tolerances for physical pain and spicy food. This isn’t the only study on the unique genes of redheads. Other research has linked redheads with being more sensitive to cold, less receptive to certain anesthetics, and more at risk of developing sclerosis and endometriosis.
4. Effective Diets
Have you ever tried a popular diet your friends swore by but couldn’t shed a single pound? Not all diets work the same for every person, as it depends on your genes. The most effective diet for you is the one that provides you the right balance of macronutrients, including fats, carbs, and protein. A Stanford study showed that, over the course of a year, people on diets that met their genetic needs lost 5.3% of body weight, whereas people on mismatched diets only lost 2.3%.
5. Musical Talents
Mastering an instrument requires more than practice; it helps to have the right genes. Several studies have compared pairs of identical twins to evaluate how a musical inclination can be genetic. Research found that genetic variation can impact an individual’s ability to play well and the inclination to practice. Both of these traits go hand-in-hand to nourishing an accomplished performer. Scientists have also found that there are distinct genetic profiles with varying cognitive abilities beyond musical talents, such as chess mastery and learning languages.
If you feel lazier than your friends, you may have inherited it from your family. A study using ten generations of rats found that there may be a genetic predisposition to becoming a couch potato. Among a group of “super runners,” the rats willingly ran, on average, ten times longer each day than the rats deemed as “couch potatoes.” Through this study, scientists identified thirty-six genes that may potentially play a role in predisposition to hanging out on the couch versus motivation to enjoy physical activity.
They say that everyone has a type. Some people are drawn to tall brunettes, while others tend to date accountants. Your attraction to and preference for particular types of mates relates to genetics. A few studies have shown that people tend to date people who have genes different from their own. Some scientists believe this attraction to opposites could be because varying genes add genetic diversity to offspring, which makes it more likely to have a healthy baby.
8. A Susceptibility to Vitamin Deficiencies
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that your genes can impact your health, even if you eat a wholesome and well-balanced diet. A particular genetic variant can undermine how your body processes foods. For example, a mutation of the MTHFR gene changes the way folic acid is processed, and is linked to other issues, such as infertility, cardiovascular disease, and mood disorders. As another example, changes in the Cnnm2 gene can result in a magnesium deficiency, which can cause symptoms like fatigue and muscle weakness.
While most phobias are the result of a bad experience, one study found that some phobias may be memories passed down multiple generations through genetic switches. As a result, you could potentially inherit an ancestor’s experience and develop the same phobia. A study concluded this after discovering that mice can pass on traumatic or stressful experiences to later generations.
10. Weight Training Results
For some people, intensive weight training leads to muscles, but for others, it could cause weight gain. Research shows that individuals with the gene INSIG2 may gain fat instead of muscle when they lift weights. During resistance training, their bodies deposit fat in the muscle rather than build muscle. If you’ve been weight training and aren’t seeing positive results, you may consider getting a DNA test to see if you are affected by this genetic condition and may be better suited to a different type of exercise, such as endurance training. The Pathway Genomics Fit products provide you insight into your genetic predisposition for exercise to get the most benefit from endurance and strength training.
While your genes may influence your health, they don’t entirely determine it. By understanding your genetic makeup and what disorders or issues to which you may be predisposed, you can make changes to your diet and exercise to improve your health.