TheBUZZ: Fruits & veggies can reduce the risk of heart disease, regardless of your genes?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
While your genes are a strong predictor in many of the leading causes of death, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables may be just as influential in the risk for heart disease.
WHAT WE KNOW
Cardiovascular disease (CVD)—the class of diseases that affect the heart and/or the blood vessels—is a leading cause of illness and death worldwide. In the United States, for example, the leading cause of death is coronary heart disease, and the third leading cause of death is stroke, a CVD in which the brain’s blood supply is interrupted.
Environmental factors such as diet, physical activity, and smoking alter a person’s risk of developing CVD, as do certain genetic variants. Thus, as in most common diseases, both genetics and the environment play a role in developing CVD.
One gene specifically, the 9p21 gene, has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. For those with the gene, the risk of developing heart disease is approximately 30% greater than those without it. New research shows that eating fruits and vegetables is protective against heart disease, even for those with this specific gene.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?
A review published in Plos One compared two large sets of data to determine the link between individuals with the gene 9p21 to determine its link to heart disease compared with environmental factors. The two large sets of data included answers to detailed questionnaires about diet, including how many fruits and vegetables were eaten, and how often.
Among all the study subjects, those who had the high-risk genotype (9p21) and ate a diet low in vegetables and fruits had a higher risk of heart attack or cardiovascular disease. However, eating a diet high in vegetables and fruits seemed to have a protective effect – those with the 9p21 gene who ate a diet rich in fruits and vegetables had a CVD risk that was comparable to people without the genotype. The study concluded the risk of CVD conferred by Chromosome 9p21 appears to be modified by a prudent diet high in vegetables and fruits.*
Just remember that fruits and vegetables are part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Make sure you’re eating a variety of fruits and vegetables to give your body the best recipe of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds to promote a long life.
Consuming a diet that meets your recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day – along with adequate exercise – is one of the best ways to give your body a strong defense against heart disease and other diseases in the future. While some diseases are not preventable, eating your fruits and vegetables helps remove free radicals that can cause mutations and cell damage throughout your body.
New experimental studies are emerging that demonstrate multiple effects of fruits and vegetables and their phytochemicals, suggesting that fruits and vegetables may have an even greater role to play in human health than the already positive results seen to date. So, enjoy your fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors and forms at each and every eating occasion!
* Do R., C. Xie, X. Zhang, et al. “The Effect of Chromosome 9p21 Variants on Cardiovascular Disease May Be Modified by Dietary Intake: Evidence from a Case/Control and a Prospective Study.” PLoS Medicine (2010); 9(10); e1001106. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001106.