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Swayed by Our DNA

Some recent developments in medical research indicate that our genes strongly influence the nature of our friendships and can adversely affect the health of our friends.

The findings of a study of fraternal and identical twins suggest that identical twins (those who come from the same egg) are more apt to choose friends who have similar characteristics than do fraternal twins.

Another study of identical twins suggests that our genes push us to select friends who are more like us than not. It found that identical twins pick friends who are similar to their wives and family members.

The results of a third study in the U.K. combined with those of a fourth in the U.S. show that our DNA can be hazardous to our friends’ well-being.

British researchers discovered a “fat gene” (i.e., mutated FTO gene), a single one of which can raise the probability of a person becoming obese by 30 percent. If a person has two such genes, the probability of obesity occurring increases to 70 percent.

And Americans found that if you have friends who become obese, the probability of becoming obese yourself jumps by 57 percent. Friends apparently are more affected than relatives. If someone becomes obese, his or her siblings have a 40 percent increased risk, and a spouse, a 37 percent increased risk.

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