Genetics are poor predictor of most disease risks: university study

Dec 18 2019, 2:20 pm

“DNA is not your destiny,” says a new study from the University of Alberta (U of A) that recently revealed genetics are a poor predictor of most disease risks.

According to the study, which examined two decades worth of data, in most cases your genes have less than 5% to do with your risk of developing a particular disease.

“The vast majority of diseases — including many cancers, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease — have a genetic contribution of 5 to 10% at best,” said U of A computational biologist David Wishart, a co-author on the study.

Researchers looked at the relationships between common gene mutations and different diseases and conditions.

“The results show that the links between most human diseases and genetics are shaky at best,” said the release.

According to the study, there are, however, some notable exceptions.

“Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and macular degeneration have a genetic contribution of about 40 to 50%,” said the release.

Wishart says that genetics don’t play as significant of a role as other factors for most other diseases.

“Despite these rare exceptions, it is becoming increasingly clear that the risks for getting most diseases arise from your metabolism, your environment, your lifestyle, or your exposure to various kinds of nutrients, chemicals, bacteria or viruses,” said Wishart.

This study upends many long-held beliefs, and “modern gene-testing business models,” that suggest gene testing can accurately predict disease risks.

“The bottom line is that if you want to have an accurate measure of your health, your propensity for disease or what you can do about it, it’s better to measure your metabolites, your microbes or your proteins — not your genes,” noted Wishart.

“This research also highlights the need to understand our environment and the safety or quality of our food, air, and water.”

The study, “Assessing the Performance of Genome-Wide Association Studies for Predicting Disease Risk,” was published earlier this month.