The foods you eat and how well you follow certain diets could be written in your DNA.
Scientists have suggested that being vegetarian could be determined by genes.
Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, analyzed the genetics of 350,000 people to study whether genetics played a role in adherence to a vegetarian diet.
The data included DNA from 5,000 strict vegetarians and 300,000 non-vegetarians.
They found three genes strongly linked to a vegetarian diet, while another 31 were potentially linked to a plant-based lifestyle, and found that vegetarians are more likely than non-vegetarians to have different variations of these genes.
The researchers said the genes were mainly linked to the digestion of lipids or fats, suggesting they helped vegetarians better extract essential fats from plant sources and discouraged them from returning to meat.
Three genes were linked to a vegetarian diet, while another 31 were potentially linked to a plant-based lifestyle, the researchers said (file image)
Dr. Nabeel Yaseen, professor emeritus of pathology who led the research, said cnn: ‘Right now, what we can say is that genetics play an important role in vegetarianism and that some people may be genetically more suitable for a vegetarian diet than others.
«A large proportion of people who consider themselves vegetarians report consuming meat products when answering detailed questionnaires.
“This suggests that many people who would like to be vegetarians cannot do so, and our data suggest that genetics is at least part of the reason.”
The genes the scientists detected may be involved in encoding enzymes that were shaped to break down plant fats. They have a different shape than the enzymes that break down animal fats.
The researchers said this would prevent nutrient deficiencies in the body, which could have negative effects on areas of the body such as the brain, which is made up of 60 percent fat and requires lipids to support its structure and communication between cells.
A deficiency can lead to memory and learning problems and an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
In his article, published in Plus oneThey compared the ability of plants to break down fats with that of people who can easily digest caffeine or alcohol.
They said those who were not as able to break down these substances were more likely to suffer adverse effects and, as a result, consume less of them.
Variations in the “vegetarian genes,” called TMEM241, RIOK3, NPC1 and RMC1, were not present in the meat eaters.
The study was based on data from the UK Biobank, a major database on the habits and genetics of 500,000 individuals.
This document defined vegetarians as those who had not eaten any animal products in the past year, which also included seafood or products that use animal meat such as lard.
Vegetarians were shown to be mostly female, younger in age, with lower body mass, and of lower socioeconomic status.
In addition to the three strongly linked genes, the results also showed 31 genes that the researchers said were potentially linked to a vegetarian diet.
Most of these were also associated with the way the body breaks down fats.
Plants and meat have fats with different complexity, meaning they require different enzymes to break them down.
Dr Yaseen added: “We speculate that this may have to do with genetic differences in lipid metabolism and how it affects brain function, but more research is needed to examine this hypothesis.”
About six percent of Americans (or 19 million people) are vegetarians, surveys suggest.
But many need to take essential supplements, such as vitamin B12, zinc and iron, to avoid any adverse health effects due to a meat-free diet.