Individuals with parents from varying genetic backgrounds are mostly taller and smarter as compared to those born with genetically similar parents.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh suggest that humans have evolved to become more smart and tall as compared to their predecessors. The findings, published in the journal Nature, were reported after analyzing populations from around the world. The study was funded by the Medical Research Council.

Looking At The Population

Researchers conducted an analysis of genetic and health-related information of more than 100 different studies from around the world – comprising of above 350,000 individuals from both, urban and rural populations.

The research team examined the entire genetic make-up of the individuals. They highlighted cases where people had inherited similar copies of a gene from both their parents (homozygous inheritance) – indicating that their predecessors were somehow related. The idea was to pinpoint differences in genetically diverse and genetically similar individuals, and to see how this affected traits such as height, intelligence and occurrence of disease.

Intriguing Findings

It was seen that individuals with parents from varying genetic backgrounds were mostly taller and smarter (in terms of thinking skills) as compared to those born with genetically similar parents. This proves the hypothesis that greater genetic diversity is associated with increases in height, cognitive skills and levels of education.

It was previously thought that close family linkages could predispose an individual to develop complex diseases. The analysis revealed that genetic diversity did not influence health-related factors such a blood pressure or cholesterol levels, suggesting that the inheritance of diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and other complex disorders was not necessarily based on genetic similarities or differences.

Role Of Evolution Understood: Superhuman Coming Soon

Overall, the findings of the study suggest that with time, evolution is supporting individuals who have an increased stature and enhanced cognitive skills. However, evolution is not impacting the predisposition of a particular genetic pool to develop certain diseases or complex disorders.

Dr Jim Wilson from the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute highlighted how a large-scale genetic analysis such as this could reveal fundamental information about evolution and its history. Dr Peter Joshis, also from the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, said that the study managed to answer certain key questions that were initially raised by Darwin regarding the advantages of genetic diversity. “Our next step will be to hone in on the specific parts of the genome that most benefit from diversity,”  Joshis said.