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Meat Consumption and Genetics

//Meat Consumption and Genetics

Meat Consumption and Genetics

Does vegetarianism work for everybody? Your genetics play a large role.

The current dietary recommendation calls for the entire population to limit red meat intake. Is this a beneficial dietary restriction for everyone? Two recent scientific studies report how the variability of genetics and gut microbiome would alter food substances.

Figueriredo et al., a team of researchers at University of Southern California, found that in terms of colorectal cancer, two genetic variants existed: rs4143094 and rs1269486. Individuals with the rs4143094 gene variant are more susceptible to get colorectal cancer because of the way the individual digests processed red meat compared with individuals with the rs1269486 gene variant. This is attributed to the role of the gut microbiota in fermenting food substances to produce inflammatory products that elicit an immune response.

Not only do genetic variants affect the digestion of foods, but the individual’s past diet habits also play a role because the composition of the gut microbiota tends to change with environment factors. Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Tang et al. found that the gut microbes in the intestines were able to metabolize phosphatidylcholine to TMAO, which has been speculated to be a major risk factor for heart disease. Major sources of phosphatidylcholine in our diet are red meat and eggs. Due to the major role that the gut plays in nutrient metabolism, fiber, probiotics, and prebiotics may be helpful because they promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. On the other hand, a diet rich in simple carbohydrates will promote the proliferation of harmful species.

The previous two studies are significant advancements in the field of disease prevention because diet intervention is the most cost-effective and non-invasive way to reverse the increasing presence of chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease in our population. When it comes to specific dietary patterns, one does not fit all, and this is where personalized nutrition has the immense potential to advance health.