60-Second Health

Diet Counters Bad Gene

People with genetic variant 9p21, which predisposes them to heart disease, lowered their risk with a healthful diet. Katherine Harmon reports

Even with a healthy lifestyle, genes are the deciding factor in whether someone gets a chronic illness, such as heart disease. Right? Well, maybe not. A new study suggests that we might be able to exercise some control over our genetic destiny—just by lifting a fork.

People with the genetic variant 9p21 have an increased risk for heart disease—one of the most common killers worldwide.

Researchers collected genetic and dietary information from more than 8,000 people of various ethnicities, as well as data from 20,000 Finish subjects. People who had the genetic variant, but who ate a diet rich in fruits, raw vegetables and nuts, ended up on average with a heart attack risk close to people who don't have this genetic propensity. While those with the trait who did not follow such a prudent diet had as much as twice the chance of having a heart attack. [Ron Do et al., "The Effect of Chromosome 9p21 Variants on Cardiovascular Disease May Be Modified by Dietary Intake: Evidence from a Case/Control and a Prospective Study," in Public Library of Science Medicine, link to come]

So a healthful diet might actually be changing the expression of the gene, in effect turning it off. Which suggests that there might be more diet-gene interactions than you can shake a carrot stick at.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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