You are what you eat–and there’s a gene for that


By Mariana Riquezes

People always joke that you are what you eat.

A recent study conducted by scientists from Cornell University revealed that this saying might have more truth behind it then we think.

An article from Medical Daily suggests that our genome evolved due to the diets of our ancestors.

A good example is vegetarians. The researchers studied over 200 vegetarian Indians whose ancestors primary diet was largely vegetarian. They found that 68 percent of them had the vegetarian allele.

This allele is an insertion mutation that causes an increase in production of enzymes FADS1 and FADS2. These enzymes are used to break down omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids for our bodies to use for brain development and controlling inflammation, according to the article. This insertion also improved the ability to produce fatty acids from plants.

Although this may seem like a positive thing, researchers say the insertion is linked to several health risks like heart disease and colon cancer. But these health risks can be avoided, according to Dr. Alon Keinan.

Keinan says as long as they avoid foods that are high in omega-6 and vegetarian, they should be less at risk from inflammation-related diseases.

The reasoning behind this is because omega-3 and omega-6 are continually competing to be metabolized, and having too much omega-6 can create an imbalance that leads to these health risks.

The study also found that populations whose diets consisted of mainly fish had the opposite type of mutation. Instead of an allele insertion they experienced an allele deletion.  

“This ensured the population didn’t consume too many omega-3 fatty acids, which are abundant in fish – eating too much can lead to health issues, such as colitis and other immune disorders,” according to the article.   

This study shows that not only do our environments cause our genome to evolve, but so do our population’s dietary habits.

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