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Eating Greens Can Change Your Genes

Scientists once told us that you can't change your family, the genes they pass on, or the effect of these genes. Now an international team of scientists is attacking that belief. They discovered that the gene that is the strongest marker for heart disease can actually be modified by generous amounts of fruit and raw vegetables. Researcher Jamie Engert says, "We know that some genetic variants increase the risk of heart disease, but it was a surprise to find that a healthy diet could significantly weaken its effect.”

His team's research suggests that that people with the high risk genotype who eat a prudent diet, composed mainly of raw vegetables, fruits and berries, have a similar risk of heart attack to those with the low risk genes." Researcher Sponia Anand says, "Our results support the public health recommendation to consume more than five servings of fruits or vegetables as a way to promote good health."

Don't like vegetables? Some scientists have "mapped" the tongue--saying that we taste sweets on one part of it, bitterness on another--but it turns out this isn't true: we used the whole tongue to taste EVERYTHING, and those bumps on your tongue aren't taste buds: Those bumps on your tongue aren’t actually your taste buds: each one is receptacle for 50 to 100 buds. People who become chefs and restaurant critics may be among the 15 to 25% of the people who have more taste buds than the rest of us.

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Oops... The source article has a mistake in it, stating that the diet alluded to has an effect on the gene markers associated with heart disease, however the research article's conclusion only states that they only found that the RISK of heart disease had been modified, saying nothing about gene marker changes:
"The risk of MI and CVD conferred by Chromosome 9p21 SNPs appears to be modified by a prudent diet high in raw vegetables and fruits."

This is not a case of mutating genes, but rather, the old nature vs nurture situation. In this case, it's genes vs environment, or more accurately, how does the environment affect what genes do. The nature vs nurture debate is somewhat fallacious anyway. To keep this from rambling, I will refer you to "The Dependent Gene". Here is a review.

It's difficult to tell from the linked articles, but as Madd Matt has linked, the PLoS Medicine article details how the researchers studied a genetic region from many people where there are small variations between them. Using made up numbers, let's say that a gene has 1000 nucleotides. Perhaps 990 are the same for everybody, but 10 vary among individuals. These differences (SNPs) may be associated with various things, in this case increased risk for heart problems. The researchers found that people who don't eat their vegetables are more likely to have heart problems if they have certain SNPs in this location. Or maybe it's the other way. People who eat vegetables are less likely to suffer the increased risk of these SNPs on their heart. It's not my specialty, so please forgive my imprecision.

There could be some DNA modifications, such as methylation going on, which can affect descendants, but I didn't see that in my very limited skimming of the article, so any further comment would be pure speculation and too complicated for now.

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