Everybody dreams of having the smartest kids on the block, bagging all the awards in school and graduating as valedictorians. But’s what the secret ingredient? A new study reveals what that missing chemical X is: diverse parental genetics. Greater genetic diversity makes a huge difference in shaping your child’s intellect.
“We’ve found that the genetics are associated quite robustly across populations, and although we tried to compensate for environmental factors, we think the genetic effects are real,” said the first author Dr Peter Joshi.
The study, published in journal Nature, included more than 350,000 individuals from urban and rural areas around the world. Scientists used 16 traits to compare genome biodiversity. To cancel as much bias, they also considered the external factors like child upbringing and socio-economic status.
Four traits were found to be affected by the diversity– cognitive ability, lung capacity, height and level of educational attainment. On the other hand, medical conditions like cholesterol levels and high blood pressure were not.
Interestingly, kids who were born from genetically similar parents have less than 10 months of formal education and 1.2 cm shorter compared to those who were born with genetically diverse parents. Lung functions of different groups are also notably different.
“There has been speculation ever since Charles Darwin that genetic diversity would be beneficial in terms of evolutionary fitness. We think genetic diversity decreases the chances of inheriting defecting copies of the same gene from both father and mother,” Joshi explained.
“If you think about it, evolution…selects out for who has better children and for who does functions that were necessary over the last million years. That would have offered an advantage to early humans, since being taller, means you can run quickly and get away from prey, and higher cognitive function would have helped hunters find their way home” said Dr. David Agus, CBS News medical contributor on CBS This Morning Show. Dr. Agus was not involved in the study.