How do genes and the early home environment influence children’s weight?
Updated: Nov 4, 2019
In Gemini, we collected lots of information over the telephone about the early home environment when the twins were 4 years old. We asked lots of questions about the food in home, the opportunities for physical activity, and screen time. Thanks to the Gemini families who gave us their time and support, we were able to use this information to see if a ‘healthy’ home can override genetic influence on a child‘s weight.
We know from decades of research with twins that genetic influence on weight is actually quite strong, in both childhood and adulthood. But, we wanted to see if a ‘healthy’ home could override a child‘s natural tendency to develop overweight.
We found that the genetic influence on weight was not as strong (39% compared to 86%) for children growing up in healthier homes with fewer ‘junk’ foods, more opportunities for physical activity, and more rules around screen time.
Our study is important because it shows that genes are not ‘destiny’ when it comes to a child’s weight. We know from our previous Gemini studies that genes influence weight by making us want to eat when we see or smell delicious foods, such as food high in sugar and/or fat. While there is nothing people can do about there genes, people can decide what food they have in their homes, and what they give to their children. So, making sure your home is full of healthy options (such as fruit and vegetables), and not too full of less healthy snack foods/drinks (such as fizzy drinks), may protect children whose genes encourage them to overeat when given the opportunity to do so. This was work led by Dr Stephanie Schrempft during her PhD.
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Exciting next phase in our Gemini research…
In the exciting next phase of our Gemini Research, our new PhD student Alice Kininmonth will be conducting the telephone interviews with the Gemini families again now that the twins are turning 12 years old.
Watch the blogs and publications for more updates about this exciting next phase of data collection….
Thank you for your continued support!
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