Wednesday, 07 Jan, 2009 Health & Fitness

Genes or Ecology?


What influences our health the most – genes or the surrounding medium? This is the question that has been discussed in science for years. Recently some researches in this domain showed stunning results.

Mario Fraga and his colleagues from the Spanish National Oncological Center have studied the genes of 40 pairs of monozygotous twins, from 3 to 74 years old.

As it is known, the genetic codes of such twins are identical, thus, according to this theory, the twins should both tend to develop certain diseases and bad habits, such as smoking or alcohol addiction.

In reality, it turned out that the more the living conditions of the twins from the same pair differed, the more differences there were in their health, including diseases traditionally determined by genetic factors. After the age of 28, 60 percent of these pairs had the genes structure modified.

If the twins had been separated from each other from early childhood and if they had lived in different places, then the modifications in the genes would've been even more obvious.

According to Mario Fraga, the surrounding medium (or the ecology) can influence genetics by causing chemical reactions in the cells, which, in their turn, modify the structure of DNA and of the proteins linked to it (histones). These modifications influence the so-called phenotype – a complex of genetic manifestations, responsible for our health.

More than that, specialists from a medical college in Darmut have made an experiment that showed how much does parents' lifestyle influence the lifestyle of their children. Such experiments were made earlier, but, only teenagers were involved. This time, the study analyzed children from 2 to 6 years old, who didn't have any bad habits developed yet.

Scientists asked children to play a "shop-game" and observed the products chosen by them. It resulted that children were choosing cigarettes 4 times more often if their parents were smokers, and they were also "buying" alcohol 3 times more often if their parents were permanent drinkers.

Moreover, if the child watched at least once movies forbidden for children under 13 years old, then he or she would "buy" alcohol 5 times more often than children who didn't watch such movies, Euroleb reports.

"It is widely known that children learn to smoke from their parents and the probability that your child will smoke is 2-4 times increased if you smoke", says Amanda Sanford from the British organization Action on Smoking and Health.

Thus, the tendency to a healthy or an unhealthy lifestyle may be the result of genes' modifications, but these modifications may be produced under the influence of surrounding factors. Heredity is a complicated thing. Children always try to copy their parents, even if they do it subconsciously, so if the parents' lifestyle is not healthy, no prohibitions will ever make children give up bad habits in this case.

Posted by summer_rain

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