14 October 2011
Even people who carry a gene that confers a high risk of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) can modify their heart attack risk through diet, a study suggests.
An international group of scientists has challenged the commonly held belief that people are "stuck with their genes", showing that the effect of a high-risk genetic profile can be modified through consumption of leafy greens, raw vegetables and fruits (PLoS Medicine 2011; online 11 Oct).
In one of the largest studies of gene-diet interaction focusing on cardiovascular disease, researchers studied more than 8000 individuals, including those with and without the 9p21 gene type, one of the most consistent genetic markers for heart disease.
They found people with the 9p21 gene type who ate a "prudent" diet high in raw plant foods, nuts and dairy had a similar risk of a non-fatal heart attack to non-carriers of the gene, while a high genetic risk plus a diet high in meats, eggs and fats was associated with a doubling of heart attack risk.
The associations held true across 5 ethnicities: European, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American and Arab.
Last Reviewed: 21 October 2011