Raw fruits and veggies can alter heart disease gene

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Fruits and vegetables can alter heart disease gene
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Dr. Dean Ornish, a pioneer in heart disease treatment, said “Your genes are not your fate”. Now researchers, supporting what Dr. Ornish has been teaching for years, say one of the strongest genes for heart disease can be altered by eating a diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables.

Raw fruits and vegetables can weaken heart disease gene

Researchers at McMaster and McGill universities conducted one of the largest gene studies to date showing how eating your fruits and vegetables can weaken the 9p21 gene, which is linked to high risk for heart disease.

For this study, the researchers analyzed the effect of diet on heart disease in over 27,000 people that included European, South Asian, Chinese, and Latin American and Arab ethnicities.

The finding suggests a diet rich in green, yellow and orange vegetables and berries can lower heart disease risk for people with the 9p21 genotype to the same level as those without the high risk gene.

The gene is linked to double the risk of having an early heart attack and a 74 increase in the chances of abdominal aortic aneurysm, compared to people without the gene,

Jamie Engert, joint principal investigator of the study and 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 though researchers know the gene puts people at risk for cardiovascular disease, ..."it was a surprise to find that a healthy diet could significantly weaken its effect."

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More than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day could keep heart disease at bay

Sonia Anand, 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 said, “Our results support the public health recommendation to consume more than five servings of fruits or vegetables as a way to promote good health.”

Anand says people who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables remained at low risk for heart disease even though they had the high risk gene.

The study shows genes really are not our fate. Lifestyle changes can alter the way genes are expressed. Anand says the study means family history of disease can be modified.

“Despite not being able to change our genetics, if we are able to modify the effect or expression of our genes. That's exciting."

Dr. Ron Do, who conducted the research, said more studies are needed to understand how fruits and vegetables interact with the heart disease gene.

For people with a strong family history of heart disease, eating a prudent, versus a typical Western diet, can lower the chances of heart disease. For the study, a prudent diet consisted of raw fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy, nuts and other heart healthy foods, which was shown to weaken the 9p21 gene that is a strong predictor of who will have an early heart attack.

Image credit: Morguefile

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