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Vegetarian diets over generations can lead to genetic mutations
Many people today try to avoid meat when eating. Researchers have now found that a vegetarian diet can change human DNA over a long period of time, which may also increase the likelihood of cancer and heart disease in the long term.
A generation-long vegetarian diet leads to genetic mutations that may be responsible for increasing the likelihood of cancer and heart disease, according to the latest study results. In their research, researchers from Cornell University found that people with such a diet carried DNA that made them more susceptible to inflammation. The researchers published the results of their study in the journal "Molecular Biology and Evolution".
Mutation increases arachidonic acid production
When people eat vegetarian food for generations, the DNA can change. This changes the metabolism of plant foods and may also increase the likelihood of cancer and heart disease, the researchers explain. The scientists report that the mutation occurring in a specific gene complex makes it easier for vegetarians to absorb essential fatty acids from plants. In addition, the production of arachidonic acid is increased. This is known to increase the likelihood of inflammation and cancer, doctors say. If those affected supplement their diet with many vegetable oils (sunflower oil), the mutated gene quickly converts the fatty acids into arachidonic acid, the experts explain.
Vegetarian population at increased risk of cancer?
The new results support other studies that also found that the vegetarian population was more likely to develop certain cancers compared to meat-eating people. This finding is confusing because normally eating red meat is linked to the development of colorectal cancer, doctors say. The researchers at Cornell University compared hundreds of genomes from a mainly vegetarian population in India with the meat-eating population in Kansas. They found a significant genetic difference, the scientists say.
Mutation is always passed on
When people come from vegetarians, they metabolize more vegetable fatty acids, explains Professor Tom Brenna from Cornell University. In such an individual, vegetable oils are converted to pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid, which increases the risk of chronic inflammation, the doctor adds. These are involved in the development of heart disease and would increase the likelihood of developing cancer. The mutation originated in the human genome a long time ago and was then passed on, explains the expert. The problem is getting worse because the mutation also hinders the production of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, which normally protect against heart disease, the researchers explain. The genetic mutation developed during the industrial revolution. At that time there was a big change in general nutrition. People consumed less omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish and nuts. To do this, they consumed more unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids that can be found in vegetable oils. Vegetarians should eat vegetable oils that contain little omega-6 fatty acids, such as olive oil, the experts advise.
Effects of vegetarian diet
The mutation discovered is called rs66698963 and was found in the FADS2 gene, which controls the production of fatty acids in the body. Earlier studies had shown that vegetarian and vegan diets can cause fertility problems because sperm count drops, the researchers say. Separate research at Harvard University has found that eating lots of fruits and vegetables can affect our fertility because men ingest large amounts of pesticides. Many vegetarians also have problems with getting enough protein, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and calcium, the doctors explain. Another study has shown that vegetarians have a bone mineral density (BMD) that is about five percent lower than that of non-vegetarians. However, the health benefits of a vegetarian diet are also proven in many cases. For example, other studies suggest that vegetarianism lowers the risk of diabetes, stroke, and obesity, the doctors report. (as)