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Was Elvis Presley destined to die early? DNA tests show King was prone to obesity and disease

The singer, who died at the age of 42, is known to have had an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and bad eyesight

Ian Johnston
Wednesday 26 March 2014 00:34 GMT
Elvis Presley at one of his final concerts in 1977
Elvis Presley at one of his final concerts in 1977 (Rex Features)

Elvis Presley may have died because of genetic conditions that made him prone to obesity and heart disease - rather than his lifestyle, according to a new documentary.

The Channel 4 programme Dead Famous DNA analysed samples of hair said to have belonged to the singing legend and found genes linked to several medical conditions.

Apart from obesity and heart disease, they also found genes associated with migraines and glaucoma.

Presley, who died at the age of 42, is known to have had an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and bad eyesight.

He is also known to have had headaches and suffered from fatigue and fainting and in later life his weight soared.

His fondness for junk food was blamed by many for his early death.

Dr Stephen Kingsmore, director of the Centre for Paediatric Genomic Medicine at the Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, analysed the hair sample for the programme and said the findings indicated this might not be the full story.

“There had been so much speculation about cause of death, and so much ill spoken of his lifestyle, and we had this intriguing finding that possibly Elvis had a medical illness, and all of the stuff about how he killed himself with his lifestyle might have been very unfair,” he said.

The star was found dead in 1977, slumped in a bathroom at Graceland, his mansion in Memphis, Tennessee.

Presenter Mark Evans said this might have been his “genetic destiny”.

“For years, Elvis has been blamed for his own death, for overeating or overdosing on drugs,” he said.

“Both of these addictions wouldn't have helped. But it seemed Elvis had a flaw in his DNA.”

Mr Evans said that they were “very, very confident” that the sample of hair had come from the singer, after spending three years doing their research.

“I'm massively confident that is Elvis' DNA but I can't prove it,” he said. “I can't tell you 100% that is Elvis' DNA. That's not possible.”

Producers wrote to Presley's daughter Lisa Marie Presley, but said that they have not heard back.

The programme, to be broadcast at 9pm on Wednesday, 26 March, also attempts to analyse the DNA of people such as Adolf Hitler, Charles Darwin, John F Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Napoleon, Marlon Brando and King George III.

The show hit the headlines after it emerged that TV bosses paid Holocaust denier David Irving thousands of pounds for a lock of what was supposed to be Hitler's hair.

Channel 4 said that Irving sold them the hair sample in good faith but their view of the science “strongly suggests” that it was not Hitler's.

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