Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have discovered new insights into how African-American and Hispanic-American genes influence their ability to utilize omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for health. obtained. The findings are an important step toward “precision nutrition,” where meals tailored precisely to our bodies’ needs can help us live longer, healthier lives.
Omega-3 and omega-6 are “healthy fats.” Although it can be obtained through food, many people also take it as a supplement. Omega-3s help keep your immune system healthy and may lower your risk of heart disease, while omega-6s promote immune health and provide other benefits. These fatty acids also play an important role in the proper functioning of our cells. People who have higher levels of fatty acids circulating in their bloodstream are thought to have a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, and other serious illnesses.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are found in foods such as nuts and avocados.
While there has been considerable research into how genes influence the body’s ability to utilize omega-3s and omega-6s among people of European descent, Americans of Hispanic and African descent There hasn’t been much research about it. UVA’s Dr. Ani W. Manichaikul and his colleagues set out to address that disparity. Their new findings revealed not only extensive similarities between the groups, but also some important differences. Researchers say this difference highlights the need to conduct genetic studies in diverse groups of people.
“People with diverse ancestry have some unique characteristics in their DNA, and including diverse participants in a study can help improve this genetic profile,” said Manichaikul of UVA’s Center for Public Health Genomics and School of Public Health Sciences. “We can detect mutations.” “The results of this study bring us one step closer to considering the full range of genetic variation to predict which individuals are at increased risk of fatty acid deficiency.”
To better understand these genetic differences, Manichaikul and colleagues examined data collected from more than 1,400 Hispanic Americans and more than 2,200 African Americans. This data was obtained through the Cohort for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium, an international group established to facilitate large-scale genetic analyses.
Manichaikul et al. report that previous genetic findings regarding fatty acid metabolism in people of European descent often apply to people of Hispanic and African descent. For example, one location on a particular chromosome has been identified as an important site for the control of fatty acid use in Europeans, and that site has also been found to be important in people of Hispanic and African descent. Did. There were several such common genetic influences across the three groups.
However, Manichaikul and her team also found significant differences between both Hispanic Americans and African Americans, including some previously unknown genetic causes of variation in fatty acid levels. discovered.
The differences the researchers detected between Hispanic Americans and African Americans help explain why their bodies use fatty acids differently. They also suggest answers to questions such as why Hispanic people with significant Native American ancestry often have lower levels of fatty acids in their blood.
The researchers describe their new findings as follows: Published in Communication Biology, laying the foundation for future studies to examine how differences in fatty acids affect the outcome of diseases such as cancer, or how they affect the function of the immune system. And they may use “precision nutrition” — carefully tailored meals and strategic supplements — to improve those results.
“Our study discovered new fatty acid-related genetic variations that were not found in previous studies that did not include as much genetic diversity,” Manichaikul said. “Future research will continue to include as much ancestry and genetic diversity as possible so that we can learn how the vast diversity of human DNA affects people’s health. .”
This article was first published by UVA Health. Please read the original.