Vegetarian Diet and Gene Mutation Posted on March 30, 2016, 0 Comments
Vegetarianism can lead to heart disease and cancer
By Sarah Knapton 2:38 PM Wednesday Mar 30, 2016
Long term vegetarianism can lead to genetic mutations that raise the risk of heart disease and cancer, scientists have found.
Populations who have had a primarily vegetarian diet for generations were found to be far more likely to carry DNA that makes them susceptible to inflammation.
Scientists in the US believe that the mutation occurred to make it easier for vegetarians to absorb essential fatty acids from plants.
But it has the knock-on effect of boosting the production of arachidonic acid, which is known to increase inflammatory disease and cancer. When coupled with a diet high in vegetable oils - such as sunflower oil - the mutated gene quickly turns fatty acids into dangerous arachidonic acid.
The finding may help explain previous research which found vegetarian populations are nearly 40 per cent more likely to suffer colorectal cancer than meat eaters, a finding that has puzzled doctors because eating red meat is known to raise the risk.
Researchers from CornellUniversity in the US compared hundreds of genomes from a primarily vegetarian population in Pune, India to traditional meat-eating people in Kansas and found there was a significant genetic difference.
"Those whose ancestry derives from vegetarians are more likely to carry genetics that more rapidly metabolise plant fatty acids," said Tom Brenna, Professor of Human Nutrition at Cornell.
"In such individuals, vegetable oils will be converted to the more pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid, increasing the risk for chronic inflammation that is implicated in the development of heart disease, and exacerbates cancer. The mutation appeared in the human genome long ago, and has been passed down through the human family."
To make the problem worse, the mutation also hinders the production of beneficial Omega 3 fatty acid which is protective against heart disease. Although it may not have mattered when the mutation first developed, since the industrial revolution there has been a major shift in diets away from Omega 3 - found in fish and nuts - to less healthy Omega 6 fats - found in vegetable oils.
"Changes in the dietary Omega 6 to Omega 3 balance may contribute to the increase in chronic disease seen in some developing countries," added Dr Brenna. "The message for vegetarians is simple. Use vegetable oils that are low in omega-6 linoleic acid such as olive oil." (I would add that avoidance of PUFAs in general is a good strategy, replacing them in the diet with saturated fat from quality sources).
The mutation is called rs66698963 and is found in the FADS2 gene which controls the production of fatty acids in the body.
Previous studies have shown that vegetarianism and veganism can lead to problems with fertility by lowering sperm counts. (Nature doesn’t want to perpetuate weakness. Thus, anytime one’s vitality sinks below the level where one can positively contribute to the gene pool, the ability to procreate is compromised or lost entirely).
Separate research from Harvard University also found that a diet high in fruit and vegetables may impact fertility because men are consuming high quantities of pesticides.
Many vegetarians also struggle to get enough protein, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and calcium which are essential for health. One study found that vegetarians had approximately five percent lower bone-mineral density (BMD) than non-vegetarians.
However other research suggests vegetarianism lowers the risk of diabetes, stroke and obesity.
The new research was published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution
Original Study can be accessed here: http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/03/09/molbev.msw049.full.pdf+html
Positive selection on a regulatory insertion-deletion polymorphism in FADS2 influences apparent endogenous synthesis of arachidonic acid
Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) are bioactive components of membrane phospholipids and serve as substrates for signaling molecules. LCPUFA can be obtained directly from animal foods or synthesized endogenously from 18 carbon precursors via the FADS2 coded enzyme. Vegans rely almost exclusively on endogenous synthesis to generate LCPUFA and we hypothesized that an adaptive genetic polymorphism would confer advantage. The rs66698963 polymorphism, a 22 bp insertion-deletion within FADS2, is associated with basal FADS1 expression, and coordinated induction of FADS1 and FADS2 in vitro. Here we determined rs66698963 genotype frequencies from 234 individuals of a primarily vegetarian Indian population and 311 individuals from the U.S. A much higher I/I genotype frequency was found in Indians (68%) than in the U.S. (18%). Analysis using 1000 Genomes Project data confirmed our observation, revealing a global I/I genotype of 70% in South Asians, 53% in Africans, 29% in East Asians, and 17% in Europeans. Tests based on population divergence, site frequency spectrum and long-range haplotype consistently point to positive selection encompassing rs66698963 in South Asian, African and some East Asian populations. Basal plasma phospholipid arachidonic acid status was 8% greater in I/I compared to D/D individuals. The biochemical pathway product-precursor difference, arachidonic acid minus linoleic acid, was 31% and 13% greater for I/I and I/D compared to D/D, respectively. Our study is consistent with previous in vitro data suggesting that the insertion allele enhances n-6 LCPUFA synthesis and may confer an adaptive advantage in South Asians because of the traditional plant-based diet practice.