It’s Not All About Your Genes
Sometimes it feels like the main takeaway from the last couple of decades of medical research is that we carry the burden of our genes with us throughout of lives and that, more than anything else, will bring us sickness or health – and only the miracles of new drugs or surgeries can shift our genetically determined fate. But of course that’s not true. The other headline from the last couple of decades of medical research is that how we live brings us sickness or health even more than we once imagined.
Today’s example – near-sightedness. We talked about myopia a while back (Play in the Light, Preserve Your Sight;). An epidemic of near-sightedness in East Asia had driven a lot of new research around the globe. Last week, a new study emerged from The Netherlands Once again, we find that kids who play outdoors more are less likely to be near-sighted. This time, it was a large culturally and socioeconomically diverse group of urban 6 year olds.
What’s interesting about the new study is that genetic and cultural factors which are known to be associated with higher rates of myopia (non-European background, lower levels of parental education and income) are almost completely explained by time spend outside and time playing sports. In other words, what looked like genetic destiny was actually all about “lifestyle.” I grew up in the canyons and apartments of Manhattan. It’s no surprise that I’m writing this blog while wearing glasses. So chase your kids outside to play. And there’s an added benefit – they’ll also have a lower body mass index!