Consumer genetic testing gives us all an opportunity to discover gene variants that influence our palate, behavior, and health inheritance. But a recent study has shown that our genetic makeup may not have as big an influence on our behavior as our mindset.
For starters, the science on gene variants and their impact on our health is still being researched. And what’s more, there is even less research on the psychological impact of finding out certain genetic risks.
Can Our Brains Overcome Our Genetic Predispositions?
Nevertheless, a study published in Nature Human Behavior looked into the impact of learning about these genetic markers related to exercise and eating habits. In essence, participants had provided a saliva sample for genetic testing. After hearing the results of their genetic tests related to exercise or eating behavior, the participants would be tested on a treadmill or asked to finish a liquid meal respectively.
The results were fascinating.
The participants in the exercise group were inaccurately told that their genes made them tire more quickly. And as a result they did, in fact, tire more quickly. And in the diet group, participants who were inaccurately told they had a gene variant that made them feel fuller did, in fact, feel fuller. This despite the fact that the genetic results were erroneous.
People’s psychology about their genetics altered their physical responses to the testing.
Researchers conducted another experiment and found an even more substantial impact on endurance and satiety. Participants who believed they had the gene variant performed better than those who actually had the gene variant.
Psychology vs. Physiology
The results suggest that how we think about ourselves, and our performance, play a bigger role than our DNA.
Our minds can act as a limiter on our performance, and this study is one example of how the stories we tell ourselves can impact us positively or negatively. To further illustrate this point, check out David Epstein’s TED Talk “Are athletes really getting better, faster, stronger?” to understand how athletes continue to push the bounds of performance and what we can learn from them.
Source: New York Times
Sonja Stilp M.D. is a doctor and founder of RISE. She is a board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physician with fellowship training in interventional spine and sports medicine. Dr. Stilp has advanced training in regenerative medicine and orthobiologics for the treatment of spine and sports injuries. She believes how you think matters! Schedule an appointment to meet with Dr. Stilp at RISE in Boulder, Colorado