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How genetic screening improves lifestyle

Monday June 18th, 2018

A genetic screening programme has successfully persuaded thousands of people to make lifestyle changes, a European conference has heard.

The programme was tested in Finland and enabled participants to view the implications of their genomic information relating to ischaemic heart disease on a web-site.

The genetic analysis was based on 49,000 genetic variants linked to the disease group, the conference of the European Society of Human Genetics in Milan, Italy, heard.

The study involved some 7,328 people who were given a ten-year risk assessment for ischaemic heart disease, combining conventional risk factors with the genetic analysis.

The study found a significant improvement in smoking cessation rates and weight loss. Some 17% of smokers in the study gave up – while 13.7% of participants achieved sustained weight loss.

Changes have so far been maintained for 18 months.

Researcher Dr Elisabeth Widen, from the Institute for Molecular Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland, said: As many as 40% of participants with a high risk of cardiovascular disease were smokers at the start of the study, so these results are encouraging. We believe that giving information on their genetic profile to individuals is particularly motivating, perhaps simply because it is new information.

“For example, many of the participants already knew that they had high levels of cholesterol. But it was receiving information on their personal genetic risk that triggered changes.”

Conference chair Professor Joris Veltman welcomed the findings – but questioned the impact on those shown to have low genetic risk.

Professor Veltman, director of the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Newcastle University, UK, said: “It is impressive to see how genomic information can be used successfully to promote a healthier lifestyle in people at higher risk of developing heart disease.

“Clearly in the population there will also be many people with a relatively lower genetic risk of developing common diseases, and I do wonder what would happen if these people are informed about this; would they start showing an unhealthier lifestyle?”

Professor Veltman added: “This field of predictive genomic medicine is only just emerging, with lots of opportunities for further research.”

Abstract no: C01.2 Returning cardiovascular disease risk prediction back to individuals motivates beneficial lifestyle changes : Preliminary results from the GeneRISK study

Tags: Europe | Genetics | Heart Health

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