And Found It’s ASSOCIATED WITH Obesity And Mental Illness
Most folks will be familiar with this feeling, even if we do not feel compelled to plummet headlong towards the sea floor. But we do not absolutely all experience the desire to take risks just as – or even to the same degree. Why is that? Researchers have long suspected that there may be genetic factors involved but that was not confirmed as yet.
In our new research, published in Communications Biology, we have uncovered 26 hereditary variants specifically associated with risk taking. Our findings are important because, while the term “risk taker” might conjure images of an athletic person that enjoys free diving and helmet-less mountain biking, the reality is less glamorous. Risk taking often manifests itself in day-to-day decisions which can lead to poor health as time passes.
For example, risk prone folks are more likely to be smokers and to have first tried smoking when these were young. Also, they are more likely to consume alcohol regularly and develop addictions. We wished to examine the genetic determinants of risk taking to reveal its biological mechanisms and their implications for health.
So, would you explain yourself as someone who takes risks? This is the relevant question posed to 500,000 healthy adults from over the UK who signed up for the UK Biobank research, which stores genetic data. One-quarter responded yes Roughly. On average, they consumed more alcohol and were much more likely to have tried smoking and report drug addictions than those who responded no – confirming that there could be important health implications associated with risk taking. Looking at their genomic data, our evaluation revealed 26 variations in regions of the individual genome (genetic loci) associated with a self-reported inclination toward risk taking. The genes located at these locations are indicated in the central nervous system and immune system richly.
That the brain plays a key role in risk-taking behaviour is hardly astonishing. The four specific brain areas highlighted in our evaluation – the pre-frontal cortex, hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex and hypothalamus – have all been previously linked to personality characteristics highly relevant to risk taking. For example, the hippocampus regulates behavioural inhibition, the tendency to withdraw from the unfamiliar.
The association with the disease fighting capability was at first more surprising. But there is increasing evidence that the immune system is involved in behavioural and mood problems, such as major depression. There is certainly research suggesting that immune system function and personality are linked also. Next, we investigated the way the genetics of risk taking pertains to the genetics of other health-related traits. We discovered that risk taking shares a genetic basis with aspects of body composition, such as childhood weight problems and waist-to-hip ratio. There are also genetic links between risk taking and lifestyle decisions – such as having your first child early (for females) and having tried smoking.
- Pick the best asset in the “risk-off” universe as basic safety asset for “cash”
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Additionally, we found that the hereditary variants that produce you risk-prone also cause you to more likely to build up psychiatric ailments, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. In addition, four of the 26 genetic loci implicated in risk taking are associated with body mass index (BMI), the measure used to indicate if one is overweight or obese commonly. Our discovery of genetic links between risk taking and BMI is intriguing. Other (non-genetic) research shows that overweight and obese folks are more risk prone than their healthy weight counterparts. For instance, extremely obese children will have attempted smoking than their peers.
Some studies go further and claim that being risk-prone could actually contribute to causing weight problems, hypothesising that impulsive food choices, poor meal binge or planning eating provide plausible mechanisms. Our research provides partial support for the essential idea that behavior surrounding food links risk taking to weight problems. We found that the greater risk increasing gene variants a person carries, the greater calories, fat and protein they tend to consume daily.
These people are also more likely to skip breakfast and, if they’re male, to eat in response to unpleasant feelings. Both these food-related behaviours are associated with weight gain. However, our results reveal that is not the whole story. While missing breakfast and emotional eating are both associated with weigh gain, the finding of a standard association between genetic variants involved in increased risk taking and these behaviours masks a wide variation in the consequences of individual variants. In fact, some of which are actually associated with lower BMI.
Our evidence suggests that, while risk taking and BMI are linked, it is improbable that broadly defined risk takers are directly vulnerable to weight problems – there are several pathways included. This conclusion is perhaps unsurprising given the wide range of behaviours that might be referred to as “risk-taking” – from extreme sports activities to dangerous investment decisions and harmful eating.