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Bizarre Traits You Didn't Know Are Naturally Inherited From Your Parents

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You’ll be shocked to learn just how many seemingly random things about you aren’t random at all.

#1 Distinctive facial expressions

You know that “serious look” that you share with your mom? You might think that it’s the result of spending a lot of time together and subconsciously mimicking her expression since you were a child. You’d be wrong about that. Surprisingly, as Scientific American reports, a study of blind subjects and their sighted relatives revealed that they shared significantly similar facial expressions. This even held true for relatives who were separated at birth and hadn’t met until years later.


#2 Tolerance for pain

If you’re a redhead, you didn’t just get your ginger locks from your parents—you also inherited an ability to withstand stinging pain better than blondes and brunettes. In a series of studies, Danish researchers at Aalborg University injected subjects with capsaicin, the active component of chili, and found that redheads were less sensitive to this type of pain. Because of this, they can better tolerate spicy foods as well as the discomfort of a pinprick. Other research, however, suggests that the world’s 2 percent of redheads are more sensitive to cold and less responsive to injected forms of anesthesia. 

#3 Body clock

“Early to bed, early to rise” sounds like common sense, but not if your genes are working against you. A 2016 study by the genetics company 23andMe found that people may be genetically predisposed to be morning people or night owls. They discovered that there are 15 areas of the human genome linked to being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning, and having even one of them increases the likelihood of being a morning person by up to 25 percent. Furthermore, seven of those regions are related to genes regulating circadian rhythm. So that internal clock of yours? It might be programmed with a snooze button.


#4 Love or hatred of the gym

You know that great feeling you get when you finish a workout? No? You may have a gene that interferes with the release of dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter that regulates your brain’s pleasure and reward centers. According to researchers at the University of Georgia, this gene plus an individual’s personality affects a person’s “natural urge” to be active or, well, not. But this doesn’t give you an excuse to skip the gym. You can still develop a love of exercise, even with a genetic inclination to be a couch potato. 


#5 Coffee Addiction

This inheritance could cost you a bunch of money over the course of your lifetime. Believe it or not, a love of coffee—or more accurately, the way that your body metabolizes caffeine—can be passed down the genetic pipeline. In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers compared coffee drinkers in Italy and the Netherlands and found that those with a greater expression of the PDSS2 gene drank less coffee. They theorize that those people metabolize caffeine slower and therefore need less of it to feel happy and awake. As for the others?

#6 Insomnia

Your restless nights might not just be a symptom of your stressful days. Insomnia often runs in families, and in fact, an international team of researchers recently identified seven genes that put people at risk for it. They also found a “strong genetic overlap” with anxiety disorders, depression, and neuroticism. So, perhaps this will make you sleep better tonight: It’s not all in your head, and someday, there may be more biologically based ways to help you get some shut-eye. 


#7 Sweaty hands

It might not just be your nerves. If it’s chronic and excessive, it’s likely your DNA—and the way your sympathetic nerve, which controls your body’s flight or flight response, contracts blood vessels in your hands (and possibly also your feet). UCLA researchers found that two-thirds of patients who suffer from hyperhidrosis, aka “sweaty palms syndrome,” have a family history of it. However, a person only has a 28 percent chance of inheriting this trait if one of their parents has the disorder, indicating that other genes may also need to be present. How prevalent is this syndrome? Around 5 percent of people may have some form of it.


#8 Cheating heart

You’ve probably heard the theory that men cheat because they have a biological imperative to “spread their seed” as well as the fact that some men have a “playboy gene” (which is actually a variant on the thrill-seeking DRD4 gene). What may be news to you is that female genetics can be just as damning. The culprit? A mutation on women’s vasopressin receptor gene, which can affect trust, empathy, and bonding. Still, the presence of these genes in either sex doesn’t guarantee that someone will be unfaithful…and it’s certainly not an excuse for bad behavior.

#9 Diet that works for you

The likelihood that a diet will work might have more to do with your genetic makeup than the “magic” of the diet itself, according to a study on mice reported by the Genetics Society of America. The real-world (and human) takeaway? “Since there are different optimal diets for different individuals,” says researcher William Barrington, Ph.D, “this underscores the need for precision nutrition, which would identify optimal dietary patterns for each person.” The bottom line? One diet doesn’t fit all, and it may not have anything to do with your willpower. 

#10 How you were as a toddler

If your Terrible Twos were a little more intense than normal, it may have been your parents’ fault—but not because of their shoddy parenting skills. According to researchers at the University of Montreal, frustratingly aggressive behaviors like hitting, biting, and kicking in early childhood have more to do with genetics than environmental factors. Luckily, this behavior won’t necessarily continue, as long as it’s dealt with mindfully and carefully. In fact, a 2017 study found that while early aggression may be an inherited trait, after the age of 6, it’s more about environmental factors and a parent’s, well, parenting.

#11 How trusting you are

Do you believe your friend’s excuse for bailing on plans tonight? Genetics might be partially responsible for your answer to that question. In a study of twins, researchers at the University of Arizona found that trust is 30 percent heritable. If you’re more suspicious? Well, that’s because of your prior (and probably negative) experiences. Distrust, according to the study, is not an inherited trait and “appears to be primarily socialized.” 

#12 How optimistic or pessimistic you are

If you never quite look on the bright side, it’s not necessarily because life has beaten you down. Your OXTR gene, which affects the receptor for the love and bonding hormone oxytocin, could be responsible. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, people with a certain variation on that gene “were less optimistic, had lower self-esteem, and felt less personal mastery” than people with a different set of them. That said, while this inherited optimism or pessimism may influence your outlook on life, it’s not the only determining factor. 


#13 Sweet Tooth

Yes, that cookie tastes really good—but it may taste even better to you or your child. A study at the University of Guelph found that nearly 80 percent of preschoolers carried at least one of the genotypes that makes them want to snack on sweets instead of veggies. Similarly, a prior study examined a variation on the TAS2R38 taste-receptor gene, which causes vegetables like Brussels sprouts and kale taste more bitter to certain people. How did that affect their diets? Those who didn’t experience the bitter taste ate 200 more servings of vegetables per year. 

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