Mind May Trump DNA in Exercise and Eating Habits

If you tell people they have a genetic predisposition to a low capacity for exercise or a tendency to overeat, their bodies start to respond accordingly…

The study raises provocative questions about the extent to which our genes affect our physical well-being and whether, in some instances, our beliefs about our bodies, capabilities and limits might be even more influential…

Our mind-sets, or mental expectations about ourselves, seem to play an equal or even greater role than does our DNA in shaping some of our bodies’ reactions to diet and exercise, Mr. Turnwald says.

These findings suggest that “people tend to attribute more power to genes than they probably should,” says Bradley Turnwald, a doctoral student at Stanford who conducted the study with the senior author, Alia Crum, and others.

But far more research is needed, he continues, to understand the interplay of genes, beliefs and health, and eventually help people better interpret any results they receive from genetic health tests, Mr. Turnwald says.