With Summer and the promise of warmer weather around the corner, it’s time to start putting away our winter coats and unpack our summer apparel. If you’re like me, you’re wondering if you still fit into last year’s summer outfits and, even more dreadful, if work is required to shed that unwanted winter weight. On the cusp of a new diet and exercise regime, I started wondering just how big of a role my genes play in weight loss. As it turns out, I’m not alone in this pondering. With the complicated interaction of genes, lifestyle, and environmental factors influencing weight, in addition to an increased microscope on the social and economic factors influencing health and wellness, it is not surprising that the genetics of weight loss is a hot research topic.Read More
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I came across a paper recently that combines two research areas that I find extremely interesting: the use of salivary telomere length (TL) as a biomarker to predict biological age, and the psychological and physiological effects of negative stress on health and longevity. The paper, titled Marital disruption is associated with shorter salivary telomere length in a probability sample of older adults by Mark Whisman et al. (2016), explores the hypothesis that marital disruption accelerates cellular aging as characterized by salivary TL. This exciting paper explores the themes of salivary telomere utility in study design, as well as the long-term consequences of stressful life events.Read More
A fascinating area of research that has been gaining a lot of momentum concerns the influence of our microbiome with overall health and disease. The human microbiome encompasses the totality of microbes, their genetic elements and their environment. Studies have shown an association between the human oral microbiota and risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and certain cancers. There are many factors that influence microbial populations, such as dietary factors, exposure to pathogenic organisms and overall health status. The relationship between the host and its resident commensal and pathogenic organisms is complex and dynamic; and an exciting area of science with so much yet to be discovered.
We are all familiar with the role genetics play in shaping our physical appearance. You might have inherited your mother’s green eyes or your father’s broad shoulders. We too understand how genes influence our risk or resilience to developing various conditions. In previous The Genetic Link blog features we’ve linked genes with substance abuse, cancer, epilepsy and tropical diseases. But what I’ve been pondering lately is how and to what extent our unique genetic code is involved in making us who we are by shaping our personality, behavior, social interactions and thought processes. Perhaps you’re familiar with the idea of nature versus nurture, or gene versus environment studies. What I want to know is how much of who I am is due to my genetic make-up versus how much is a result of that complicated mix of my early experiences, social and cultural influences, family interactions, education…in other words, my environment? These almost philosophical questions are tackled on a daily basis by psychologists, psychiatrists and neurologists; and I am absolutely riveted by this research.