Investigación · 18 April 2018

Genetics or lifestyle? Both of them

Por cenie
¿Genética o estilo de vida? Ambos - Investigación, Sociedad

Have you ever wondered how long you can live? New lines of research claim that an important indicator of your life time may probably be in your genes, but not only that. Healthy ageing and longevity, experts say, are modulated by a fortunate combination of genetic and non-genetic factors that allow one person to live more than another.

The Spanish María Blasco, director of the National Center for Oncological Research, is one of those who argues that approximately 20% of the variation in human longevity is due to genetic factors but ¿and the other 80%?

Research on ageing, and in particular the search for the determining points for healthy ageing and longevity, has been growing rapidly in recent decades due to the increase in life expectancy in Western countries and the consequent growth of the elderly population.

It is therefore not surprising that one of the main questions in this field is the relationship between genetic background and lifestyle to determine the type of ageing, possibly without diseases and disabilities related to age, and longevity.

The results obtained in recent years, which highlighted most of the biological and biochemical mechanisms involved in the ageing process, made it possible to better understand this correlation. This has led to the development of important strategies focused on possible interventions to improve lifestyle, in order to increase the possibility of reaching longevity by modulating the so-called basic molecular mechanisms of ageing.

Main influences: smoking, weight and education.

A study published in the journal Nature and carried out by researchers at the University of Edinburgh states that one of the most "dangerous" genetic predispositions dictates an inclination towards nicotine dependence, which can lead to lung cancer and other lung diseases. A deeply ingrained habit of smoking a pack of 20 cigarettes a day reduces lifespan by about 6.8 years, the researchers found. However, they also pointed out that quitting smoking could reverse this effect and allow ex-smokers to enjoy a longer life.

Excess weight is also an important factor, since each additional kilo reduced life expectancy in 7 months. "We discovered that, on average, smoking a pack a day reduces the lifespan by 7 years, while losing 1 kilogram of weight will increase your life in 2 months," said study co-author, Dr. Peter Joshi.

In addition, studies on caloric restriction and on the variability of genes associated with nutrient detection signaling, have shown that the hypocaloric diet and / or a genetically efficient metabolism of nutrients can modulate life expectancy by promoting efficient maintenance of cells nutrients and the organism.

Another interesting, and perhaps surprising, finding is related to the impact of education, especially that of continuing to learn beyond the years of compulsory schooling. Education, the researchers noted, is responsible for an additional 11 months added to life expectancy for each year we spent studying in addition to the normally required school level.

The study was designed to eliminate confounding variables as much as possible, so that the causal, rather than correlational, relationships between genetic makeup, lifestyle choices and life expectancy could be clearly established.

Scientists have identified unique genetic signatures strongly associated with a long and healthy life, discovered that could help to better understand how certain genes may offer protection against common age-related diseases such as cancer, dementia and cardiovascular disease.

For all this we can reach the conclusion that the different interventions and factors that modulate the interaction between the genetic environment and the environment are essential to determine the individual possibility of reaching longevity and that our habits of life should not be neglected if we want to have a long and healthy life.


Under the framework of: Programa Operativo Cooperación Transfronteriza España-Portugal
Sponsors: Fundación General de la Universidad de Salamanca Fundación del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Direção Geral da Saúde - Portugal Universidad del Algarve - Portugal