The couples that drink together . . . Long-term relationships are based on how much they enjoy booze – and even have matching genes to break down alcohol in the body
- Various studies have shown that couples tend to have related drinking habits
- Yet it had been unclear whether this was due to genetic, social or other factors
- Researchers compared the DNA and drinking habits of 47,377 long-term couples
- Spouses typically have the same variant of the gene that processes alcohol
Whether you’re a pair of lushes or a teetotal twosome, the couple that drinks together may stay together, a new study has found.
From the DNA and alcohol consumption of more than 47,000 spouses, UK experts found we tend to pick mates with the same gene variant linked to drinking habits.
The finding adds to previous studies that had suggested that alcohol consumption and dependence tends to be correlated in couples.
However, it had not been clear whether this effect was the product of genetic, social or environmental factors.
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Whether you’re a pair of lushes or a teetotal twosome, the couple that drinks together may stay together, a new study has found (stock image)
Health expert Laurence Howe of the University of Bristol and colleagues used genetic data from the UK Biobank to explore whether variations of genes linked to alcohol consumption could potentially impact a person’s choice of romantic partner.
The team analysed the genomes of 47,377 long-term couples and compared their results with the pair’s self-reported drinking levels.
The team found an association between individuals who had a certain variant of a particular gene — one involved in the production of the enzymes that break down alcohol — with that of the corresponding partner’s level of drinking.
In addition, Dr Howe and colleagues also found that spouses were more likely to have the same variation of the gene in question.
This implies that couples gravitate to partners with similar drinking habits prior to cohabiting.
The team estimate that for every unit increase in one partner’s alcohol consumption, the others is likely to rise by 0.26 units.
From the DNA and alcohol consumption of more than 47,000 spouses, UK experts found we tend to pick mates with the same gene variant linked to drinking habits
‘These results suggest that alcohol use influences mate selection,’ the researchers wrote in their paper.
Such a conclusion, they added, calls ‘for a more nuanced approach to considering social and cultural factors when examining causality in [public health] studies.’
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Communications.
WHAT IS A GENOME?
An organism’s genome is written in a chemical code called DNA.
DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is a complex chemical in almost all organisms that carries genetic information.
It is located in chromosomes the cell nucleus and almost every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA.
The human genome is composed of more than three billion pairs of these building-block molecules and grouped into some 25,000 genes.
It contains the codes and instructions that tell the body how to grow and develop, but flaws in the instructions can lead to disease.
Currently, less than 0.2 per cent of the Earth’s species have been sequenced.
The first decoding of a human genome – completed in 2003 as part of the Human Genome Project – took 15 years and cost £2.15 billion ($3bn).
A group of 24 international scientists want to collect and store the genetic codes of all 1.5 million known plants, animals and fungi over the next decade.
The resulting library of life could be used by scientists to find out more about the evolution of species and how to improve our environment.
The £3.4 billion ($4.7bn) project is being described as the ‘most ambitious project in the history of modern biology’.