Mediterranean Diet and Your Genes

This website hopes to educate the reader on how a person's genes make a difference in the individual body's response to dietary choices.  Some people are awesome at breaking down dietary carbohydrates; others are champs at converting carrots into vitamin A. But a recent study pointed out not only an interaction between genes and diet -  but an interesting way of how genetics may influence the type of diet we choose. The study looked at interactions between a genetic variant in the angiotensin II gene and dietary choices in Croatia. The country of Croatia lies along the Mediterranean Sea on the southern coast of Europe. Part of the population eats a more Mediterranean style diet, while others eat a Continental or more traditional European style diet. This makes for a unique opportunity to study the health effects of the Mediterranean style diet. First, let's take a look at how the researchers are defining each diet type. From the study: "The Mediterranean-type of diet included a proportionally high daily consumption of olive oil, fruits, and vegetables, consumption of fish two to three times a week, consumption of white meat instead of red meat, and consumption of nuts at least three times a week." "The Continental diet included high consumption of red meat and meat products, small quantities of fruits and vegetables, and rare consumption of fish without olive oil. The diet that included the elements of Mediterranean-type and Continental-type of diet was categorized as a mixed-type of diet." The study participants (n=528) were split pretty evenly with half having metabolic syndrome and a half without metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is kind of a catch-all term that means the participants had at least three of the following conditions:  high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, high triglycerides, and abnormal cholesterol levels. The Mediterranean-style diet reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome and reduces high triglycerides in other studies. Researchers looked at the interaction with the angiotensin II gene involved in both lipogenesis (creation of triglycerides) and the creation of fat cells (adipogenesis). Additionally, variants of this gene are associated with high blood pressure. The variant they sequenced for this study was rs5186. In this Croatian population, those carrying the risk allele were at a higher risk for high triglycerides. But the researchers also found that those carrying the risk allele were about twice as likely to have chosen to normally eat a Mediterranean style diet. So you have a two-way interaction going on: a risk allele that usually causes higher triglyceride levels, but also a natural tendency to go with a diet that will lower triglycerides. Balanced. Amazing how you can instinctively know what diet works best for you.

Genetic variant linked to the Mediterranean diet:

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