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Genetic Linkage

The Coffee-Genes Story Brews Discontent on Thanksgiving

A few weeks ago a report claiming a love for coffee is “in the genes” fleetingly flashed across screens. I thought I’d let the grounds settle and then take a closer look, fitting with my writing about food every Thanksgiving (pumpkins last year, yo-yo dieting in 2016, and turkeys in 2015).

I keep a mental list of dumb things linked to genes.

Geno-Everything

“Get the giggles easily? Blame your genes: Genetic variant enhances how people react to funny – and sad – situations,” reported the Daily Mail, echoing a paper published in the journal Emotion. It refers to the long and short variants (alleles) of the 5-HTTLPR gene, which encodes the serotonin transporter. Variants of that gene are connected to whether participants laughed at Gary Larsen cartoons or not.

An article in The Telegraph, “It’s All In Your Genes: How DNA Explains Your Sense of Humor, Sleep Patterns, and Phobias,” explored arachnophobia, speculating about a genetic advantage handed down from an ancient aversion to spiders. The article links to another Telegraph article about a genetic connection to shopping style.

Soon I found myself sucked into a quagmire of British newspapers parroting each other, but not the technical reports. They evoke “in your genes” to cover quite a technological territory, including twin studies, comparing behaviors to having certain gene variants, to genome-wide association studies, to spinning stories that just make sense, like a fear of scorpions or not eating toxic bugs.

To continue reading go to DNA Science, my blog for Public Library of Science, where this article first appeared.  Read More 
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