New research suggests that overweight people cut their life expectancy down by two months for every two extra pounds they weigh. Scientists from the University of Edinburgh recently conducted a major study that focused on the genes that influence longevity.
What they found was that education and healthy habits are the keys to a longer life. In fact, they found that for every year a person spends studying beyond school can add an extra year onto their lives. Similarly, people who quit smoking, are open to new experiences, and study longer might expect to live a long time.
The study gathered and analysed genetic information from over 600,000 people. This information also included records of those individual’s parents’ lifespans. Since humans share one half of genetic information with each parent, scientists were able to realize the impact of different genes on one’s life expectancy.
To a certain extent, DNA is influenced by lifestyle choices. For example, genes have been linked to increased addiction and alcohol consumption. Seeing the genes in this way allowed researchers to determine which genes have the greatest influence on life expectancy.
The method used allowed them to rule out any chances that an observed association could’ve been caused by a linked, but separate factor. They learned that cigarette smoking and other traits linked to lung cancer have the greatest impact on reducing life expectancy. They calculated that an individual who smokes one pack of cigarettes per day, over their lifetime, will knock roughly 7 years off their lifespan. The good news is that smokers who give up the habit can live as long as someone who never smoked. Other negative influences include body fat and factor related to diabetes.
The research, which was published in Nature Communications, also found two new DNA factors that influence life expectancy. The first is a gene that directly affects blood cholesterol levels, and this reduces eight months off a lifespan. The second gene is tied to the immune system, and this one is different in that it actually increases life expectancy by six months.