OCT 14, 2016 01:31 PM PDT
Vegetarian Diet Alters Genetic Mutations
WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham
3 8 927

When it comes to diet habits, what you eat directly influences your body - down to the molecular genetics level. Researchers studying vegetarians and meat-eaters found that vegetarians are more likely to have a specific mutation that enhances the production of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

These fatty acids are important in brain development and controlling inflammation. However, foods rich in these nutrients, nearly all types of fish, aren't vegetarian friendly. So while meat-eaters can easily derive the nutrients from the animals that we eat, vegetarians have to metabolize plants into fatty acids. After generations of consuming only plants, it turns out that some populations developed the mutation as a way to enhance the fatty acid conversion from plants.

Of note, the mutation arose only after being selected for from many generations; that is to say, the mutation is not a metabolic switch that would get turned on if we were to stop eating meat tomorrow. In addition, while the mutation helps plant-eaters get the necessary fatty acids from their diets, it's also associated with increased heart disease and lung cancer. However, these risks could be diminished by eating a diet that includes balanced amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
MAY 08, 2018
Videos
MAY 08, 2018
How NASA Could Study Titan's Oceans
NASA has an interest in exploring Titan's oceans and plans to take an unconventional approach to studying them: send an interplanetary submarine to dive de
MAY 16, 2018
Videos
MAY 16, 2018
There Could Be Life on Venus After All...
Of all the places in the solar system where you might find alien life, Venus seems unlikely. But counting Venus out merely because of its hellish condition
MAY 18, 2018
Videos
MAY 18, 2018
Tips for Reducing Your Melanoma Risk
Each year, more people are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer than every other kind of cancer combined. It's not just about having a pesky spot remove
MAY 19, 2018
Videos
MAY 19, 2018
Making Mini-brains From Neanderthal DNA
In recent years, scientists have turned to a new kind of research model: organoids. They are a miniature, simplified version of human organs that grows as
MAY 20, 2018
Videos
MAY 20, 2018
Why the US still uses Fahrenheit
The US is one of the only countries still using the Imperial System of measurement, which includes our wacky Fahrenheit temperature scale as well as gallon
MAY 24, 2018
Videos
MAY 24, 2018
Who Has Better Tasting Skills, Men or Women?
Tasting wine involves a bit more than swishing it around in a glass and taking a sip. Wine experts know that different parts of the tongue detect different
Loading Comments...