By Sy Mukherjee
January 14, 2019

Happy Monday, readers!

The “nature vs nurture” debate is one that’s dominated the field of genetics and population health for decades. In the past month alone, controversy re-ignited over DNA pioneer Dr. James Watson’s heavily criticized (and, by the overwhelming share of the scientific community, rejected) comments on how race can determine intelligence.

But genetics undeniably make a difference when it comes to disease—especially among young people, according to a massive new study published in the journal Nature Genetics.

Harvard Medical School and the University of Queensland in Australia researchers conducted the study using a gigantic database of twins’ health records. Since twins have largely overlapping genetics, they served as an elegant population to assess the effect of DNA versus divergent sociopolitical, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

So, what did they find? Environment likely still edges out genetics when it comes to discrepancies between siblings who have been hit by a disease in young adulthood—about 40% of these differences derive from genes, while most of the other differences derive from one’s environment, according to the researchers.

Not all diseases are created equal when it comes to these differences, though. Cognitive disabilities and eye diseases are the most likely gene-driven maladies, whereas “lifestyle” factors largely shape the contours of both infectious diseases and conditions like obesity.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


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