Motion sickness can be caused by roller coasters
Motion sickness can be caused by roller coasters like this one in an amusement park in Tokyo.Yuya Shino/Reuters

Personal genetics company 23andMe studied over 80,000 of its own customers to investigate the causes and potential solutions to motion sickness, revealing a link with glucose levels in the body.

Affecting one in three adults, motion sickness can be triggered by mundane events such as travelling in cars, boats and planes, or more extreme situations, including amusement park rides, skiing and riding on camels.

23andMe's study found 35 genetic factors associated with motion sickness at a genome-wide significant level. The research reveals that, unsurprisingly, many of these factors - known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) - are in or near genes involved in balance and eye, ear, and cranial development.

The study also found several of the SNPs affected individuals differently depending on sex, with women suffering three times the effects than men in certain situations.

"Until now there's been a poor understanding of the genetics of motion sickness, despite it being a fairly common condition," 23andMe scientist Bethann Hromatka and lead author of the study said.

"With the help of 23andMe customers, we've been able to uncover some of the underlying genetics of this condition. These findings could help provide clues about the causes of motion sickness and other related conditions, and how to treat them, which is very exciting."

Glucose levels

The study has highlighted the importance of the nervous system in motion sickness and suggests "a role for glucose levels in motion-induced nausea and vomiting". The latter finding may provide some insight into other nausea-related conditions such as postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV).

Those affected by motion sickness are more likely to suffer from similar illnesses such as migraines, vertigo and morning sickness, the study confirmed, with some of these found to share underlying genetic factors with motion sickness.

23andMe are one of a growing number of personal genetic testing companies that offer to give you details of your health risks and ancestry for a fee (in 23andMe's case, it costs £125).

However, the consumer-focused genome-testing product is a loss-leader to allow 23andMe to create a giant database of its customers' genetic information. As of October 2014, it had tested over 750,000 people.

In January, the company announced a deal with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to give it access to anonymised, aggregated customer data - though only for those who consented to have their information shared.