Human DNA is chock full of information that is helping scientists understand who we are and how we came to be. It’s also providing fodder for some pretty impressive cocktail party banter.
1. FRIENDS SHARE SIMILAR GENES
It turns out opposites don’t attract. In fact, we like people who are like us, as evidenced by a University of California study that found friends share more DNA in common than strangers, usually at the level of fourth cousins.
2. PRACTICE MIGHT NOT MAKE PERFECT
You know that person who picks up musical instruments like they were born to play? It turns out they were. A study published in Psychological Science found that DNA impacts musical ability more than practice, and that musical virtuosity requires persistence and the right set of genes.
3. YOUR DANISH GENES ARE HAPPY GENES
If you’re Danish and you know it, clap your hands! A recent study found an “unexplained positive correlation” between a nation’s self-reported happiness and its genetic closeness to Denmark, and that was after controlling for social and economic factors.
4. SOME OF US ARE BORN LEARNERS
If your kids struggle to learn new things, Kings College London psychologist Robert Plominsuggests trying a new approach. His study found that genes influence 50 per cent of kids’ ability to learn.
5. DNA KNOWS WHAT YOU EAT
A regular diet of junk food leaves scars on DNA that are passed to offspring. “Our bodies are a kind of mini-ecosystem, and anything that disturbs our bacteria can alter our health in profound ways,” said study author Dr. Ian Myles. That Big Mac might not fill you up, but it’s there to stay.
6. YOU’LL NEVER HAVE A SPINY PENIS
Although our ancestors and some modern mammal relatives carry genes for a bumpy penis, humans lost the “penile spine enhancer” code 700,000 years ago. And we’re okay with that.
7. YOU’RE BANANAS!
Next time someone says you’re bananas, go ahead and agree with them. Approximately 60 per cent of human DNA is the same as a banana’s.
8. MAYBE SHE’S BORN WITH IT
Sorry Maybelline, but that beautiful woman who never ages? Maybe she’s born with it. DNA influences the appearance of aging, but then again, so does lifestyle. Avoid smoking and sun exposure for best results, regardless of genetic makeup.
9. 90% OF YOUR DNA DOES NOTHING AT ALL
Laziness may not be in your DNA, but your DNA is lazy. Recent studies show that almost 90 per cent of it, the so-called “junk DNA” sits around doing nothing all day. In your body. Rent free!
10. DNA REMEMBERS
If your ancestors of the last three generations were traumatized by starvation, your genes know it. Researchers believe these genetic “memories” are passed on to prepare progeny for potential hardship.
11. MOTHERS PASS ON PREGNANCY STRESS
Did your mom have a stressful pregnancy when she carried you? If so, scientists say you’re more likely to have a difficult pregnancy.
12. PRAYER MIGHT BE IN YOUR DNA
A trio of Russian researchers believe that certain microbes gain evolutionary advantage by encouraging religious behaviours — say, taking communion — to help them spread. It should be noted that many reviewers thought this study was more myth than science.
13. SMOKING MOMS ALTER DNA
It’s pretty well established that smoking during pregnancy is bad for babies, but new research indicates that smoking moms also impair their children’s DNA. Whether the negative changes linger throughout life remains to be seen.