Less important genetics for the elderly population: study

A new study suggests that your genetics become less important as you age, adding to research on how our genetics affect how we age.

The research, led by the University of California, Berkeley, found that aging and the environment are significantly more important than genetics in altering the expression profiles of many of our genes as we age.

« There has been a tremendous amount of work done in human genetics to understand how genes are turned on and off by human genetic variation. Our project started by asking, ‘How is this influenced by the age of a individual?' » Peter Sudman, one of the study’s co-authors, said in a statement.

« And the first result we found was that your genetics matter less as you get older. »

The study looked at the relative effects of genetics, age and environment on how approximately 20,000 human genes are expressed. Gene expression and its levels are known to control a variety of biological processes, including metabolism, hormone levels, and the release of enzymes that help the body heal itself.

Researchers suggest that while genetic makeup is great for predicting gene expression when you’re younger, it becomes less beneficial for people over 55.

« Almost all common human diseases are diseases of aging: Alzheimer’s, cancers, heart disease, diabetes. All of these diseases increase in prevalence with age, » Sudman said.

« What our study shows is that actually, as you get older, genes matter less to your gene expression. And so, maybe, we need to be aware of that when we try to to identify the causes of these diseases of aging. »

According to Sudmant, the study also suggests that factors other than age and genetics, including the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, as well as our physical activity levels, have an indirect impact on aging.

Environment accounts for up to a third of changes in gene expression with age.


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