Large-scale genomic study covering 210,000 people from across the United States and Britain has shown that humans are still evolving as harmful genetic mutations associated with Alzheimer’s disease and heavy smoking have become less prevalent in people with longer lifespan.

The study also finds that genetic mutations that predispose people to early puberty and childbearing, heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity, and asthma, also appear less often in people who lived longer, suggesting that natural selection is weeding out such harmful variants in order to save our species.

“It’s a subtle signal, but we find genetic evidence that natural selection is happening in modern human populations,” says the study co-author Joseph Pickrell, an evolutionary geneticist at Columbia and New York Genome Center, in a news release.

The study, entitled “Identifying genetic variants that affect viability in large cohorts” has been published in PLOS Biology.

Source: Columbia University