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Hate Your Bunions? Blame Your Parents, Says This Study

May 21, 2013 10:33 AM EDT

Parents are to blame for many common foot disorders, including bunions and hammer and claw toe, according to a new study published in Arthritis Care and Research.

The study, which, according to a press release, is the first to estimate the heritability of foot disorders in humans, found that these common foot woes are not the result of shoes, but genes.

Previously, studies have shown that 60 percent of older adults have foot disorders that may limit mobility and reduce quality of life; in all, bunions affect an estimated 23 percent of individuals 18 to 65 years old and 36 percent of those over 65, according to the release.

And while experts have suggested that women and older adults with a higher body mass index are at greater risk of foot disorders, little has been understood regarding the genetics involved in their development.

For this reason, Dr. Marian Hannan from Harvard Medical School and her colleagues included 1,370 participants enrolled in the Framingham Foot Study in which the mean age was 66 and 57 percent were female.

After examining each person's feet, the team then estimated heritability using software capable of performing genetic analyses of pedigree structures.

In doing so, the researchers discovered that the prevalence of bunions, lesser toe deformities and plantar soft tissue atrophy was 31 percent, 30 percent and 28 percent respectively. In addition, they found that the first two – bunions and lesser toe deformities – were highly heritable depending on the age and sex of the participant.

“Our study is the largest investigation of the heritability of common foot disorders in older adults, confirming that bunions and lesser toe deformities are highly inheritable in Caucasian men and women of European descent,” Hannan said, adding that the findings “highlight the importance of furthering our understanding of what causes greater susceptibility to these foot conditions, as knowing more about the pathway may ultimately lead to early prevention or treatment.”

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