Children inherit the risk of heart disease from their parents through their genes and not through the family’s diet and lifestyle, a new study has suggested.
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden found that children born to parents with coronary heart diseases (CHD) are 40 to 60 per cent more likely to develop the condition themselves, but growing up in an unhealthy household is of little importance.
Although children of people who suffer from the condition were already known to be at increased risk, it was not previously clear whether this was due to genetics or because children of unhealthy parents adopt similar lifestyles.
But, the latest study of more than 80,000 men and women who were adopted as children showed that susceptibility to the disease is transmitted in the womb and not in the home, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Smoking, eating unhealthy food and avoiding exercise still play a major role in a person’s chance of developing CHD, but the risk that is passed down through families is based on DNA rather than behaviour, the researchers said.
In the study, the researchers compared the medical records of the thousands of adoptees to both their biological and adoptive parents.
They found that adoptees who had at least one biological parent with CHD had up to 60 per cent more chance of suffering the disease themselves, compared with a control group.
In contrast, growing up in a home with adoptive parents who suffered from CHD resulted in no additional risk for the child, even if both parents had the disease.
Prof Kristina Sundquist, who led the study, said their findings showed that inherited risk of CHD is genetic and parents’ lifestyles are not to blame for passing it on to their children.
“Of course it is always important to think about your own lifestyle but this study shows you cannot blame families for passing on poor lifestyles to their children,” she said.