Eating certain foods alters expression of heart disease genes

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: heart disease, gene expression, health news

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(NaturalNews) Did your mother or father have a heart attack? Did your grandfather and a couple of aunts and uncles or maybe a brother or cousin die from heart disease? Do you feel doomed that having a bad ticker "runs" in your family?

Actually, you may have good reason to worry if several of your relatives have suffered from cardiac problems. There is a gene passed down in families that researchers say is the strongest marker for heart disease. But now there's breaking news that shows you can actually change that genetic heritage.

No, we aren't talking about some gene zapping drug or high tech genetic medical therapy. Instead, you simply need to eat a lot of raw natural fruit and veggies.

This isn't a joke and it isn't an unsubstantiated "health nut" claim. Instead, it's the result of a study headed by an international team of scientists and directed by researchers at McMaster and McGill universities. These researchers have made an amazing discovery, which was just published in the journal PLoS Medicine: the gene responsible for much heart disease can be modified by eating generous amounts of fruits and raw vegetables.

"We know that 9p21 genetic variants increase the risk of heart disease for those that carry it," Dr. Jamie Engert, joint principal investigator of the study, who is a researcher in cardiovascular diseases at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and associate member in the Department of Human Genetics at McGill University, said in a media statement. "But it was a surprise to find that a healthy diet could significantly weaken its effect."

Huge study investigated gene and diet link

The research represents one of the largest gene and diet interaction studies ever conducted on cardiovascular disease. It involved studying more than 27,000 individuals(European, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American and Arab) to see if what they ate had an effect on the 9p21 gene.

The results showed that individuals with the high risk genotype who ate a diet rich in mainly raw vegetables, fruits and berries, had no more risk of heart attack than people who lacked the heart disease-linked gene.

"We observed that the effect of a high-risk genotype can be mitigated by consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables," stated Sonia Anand. She is the joint principal investigator of the study, and a researcher at the Population Health Research Institute and a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University. Sonia also commented, "Our results support the public health recommendation to consume more than five servings of fruits or vegetables as a way to promote good health."

According to the study's lead author Dr. Ron Do (who conducted this research as part of his PhD at McGill and is now based at the Center for Human Genetics Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston), the new study suggests there may be an important interplay between genes and diet in cardiovascular disease. "Future research is necessary to understand the mechanism of this interaction, which will shed light on the underlying metabolic processes that the 9p21 gene is involved in," Dr. Do said.

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