Long term vegetarian diet changes human DNA raising risk of cancer/heart disease
Whaaaat?  ???
I have heard for some time that there were basic problems with a Vegetarian and especially a Vegan Diet, but I never thought it was this bad! I mean, I've noted studies finding no health benefits over a standard healthy diet, but this is troubling. Even colorectal cancer risks are higher in vegetarians than in meat eaters? Wow! I wonder how GMO foods are a factor?

This is gonna make some waves and it comes from Cornell.


Long term vegetarian diet changes human DNA raising risk of cancer and heart disease
By Sarah Knapton, Science Editor 10:00PM BST 29 Mar 2016

Long term vegetarianism can lead to genetic mutations which raise the risk of heart disease and cancer, scientists have found.

Populations who have had a primarily vegetarian diet for generations were found to be far more likely to carry DNA which makes them susceptible to inflammation.

Scientists in the US believe that the mutation occured to make it easier for vegetarians to absorb essential fatty acids from plants.

But it has the knock-on effect of boosting the production of arachidonic acid, which is known to increase inflammatory disease and cancer. When coupled with a diet high in vegetable oils - such as sunflower oil - the mutated gene quickly turns fatty acids into dangerous arachidonic acid.

The finding may help explain previous research which found vegetarian populations are nearly 40 per cent more likely to suffer colorectal cancer than meat eaters, a finding that has puzzled doctors because eating red meat is known to raise the risk.

Researchers from Cornell University in the US compared hundreds of genomes from a primarily vegetarian population in Pune, India to traditional meat-eating people in Kansas and found there was a significant genetic difference.

“Those whose ancestry derives from vegetarians are more likely to carry genetics that more rapidly metabolise plant fatty acids,” said Tom Brenna, Professor of Human Nutrition at Cornell.

“In such individuals, vegetable oils will be converted to the more pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid, increasing the risk for chronic inflammation that is implicated in the development of heart disease, and exacerbates cancer.

“The mutation appeared in the human genome long ago, and has been passed down through the human family.”

Children eating veg

To make the problem worse, the mutation also hinders the production of beneficial Omega 3 fatty acid which is protective against heart disease. Although it may not have mattered when the mutation first developed, since the industrial revolution there has been a major shift in diets away from Omega 3 – found in fish and nuts - to less healthy Omega 6 fats - found in vegetable oils.

"Changes in the dietary Omega 6 to Omega 3 balance may contribute to the increase in chronic disease seen in some developing countries,” added Dr Brenna.

“The message for vegetarians is simple. Use vegetable oils that are low in omega-6 linoleic acid such as olive oil.”

The mutation is called rs66698963 and is found in the FADS2 gene which controls the production of fatty acids in the body.

Previous studies have shown that vegetarianism and veganism can lead to problems with fertility by lowering sperm counts.

Separate research from Harvard University also found that a diet high in fruit and vegetables may impact fertility because men are consuming high quantities of pesticides.

Many vegetarians also struggle to get enough protein, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and calcium which are essential for health. One study found that vegetarians had approximately five percent lower bone-mineral density (BMD) than non-vegetarians.

However other research suggests vegetarianism lowers the risk of diabetes, stroke and obesity.

The new research was published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
I think this article is a little misleading.  It's talking about mutations and genetics, i.e. inter-generational changes occurring over centuries/millennia in a certain population, and not what happens in a single lifetime.  It could simply be pointing to the fact that when traditionally vegetarian cultures are introduced to junk food (vegetarian or not), they're more susceptible to these kinds of diseases, since their genetics are not trained for that.

That being said, I think it's important to have a balanced diet.  For me for instance, I go vegan 3 days out of the week, do not eat meat on another 3 days, and finally have a meat day on Sunday.  But the most important thing is that I do not eat processed foods, and we pretty much cook all of our meals ourselves, unless of course we're eating out, or if we just had baby, like now.  We're label/ingredient list readers, and we don't buy anything with artificial chemicals in them.  We don't eat any flour-based products and eat only whole grains; we don't consume white sugar, and eat only fruits and the occasionally maple syrup/honey.  So far, I think I do feel better on this diet, and I don't actually miss meat all that much, which was a surprise to me.  Okay, in the beginning, I did miss it a lot, but now, I don't crave it anymore.

In any case, I think the question of eating healthy extends far beyond the distinction between eating and not eating animal products.
AllSeasons, there is sense in what you say.  A healthy, balanced diet makes the most sense.  I make about 99% of our food from scratch and include a lot of veggies.  We are vegetarian twice a week and eat a variety of animal proteins once a day the rest of the week.  Portions of meat are generally small (1 lb serving 6-7).  We prefer olive oil and even make our own vinegar.  We do eat wheat - mostly in the form of homemade bread.  Since nobody in the house has an allergy at this point, I think it's OK.  I don't have much and neither does my husband.  The kids need the carbs though.  We are pretty strict about eating wholesome foods as much as humanly possible and don't eat out but very occasionally (who can afford to?).

That being said, I don't shy away from the occasional treat.  My kids' Easter candy isn't organic and I'm OK with that.  They never eat it all anyway.  We throw out a ridiculous amount of candy in this house.  Halloween candy goes in the trash in time for Christmas treats, which end up going in the trash in time for St. Valentine's day.  There usually isn't much candy at that point until Easter.  I generally throw out what isn't consumed in the 2 weeks after Easter.  I have a hard time justifying the expense for candy that never seems to get eaten but I think I'd feel guilty if I didn't buy it too.  :)
I am the first to admit I am not a science wizard and I trust the researchers at Cornell are much brighter than I could ever be.  However, for being such overly intelligent beings, I am stunned at their choice of study groups.  There can be disputed variables that do not put the study participants on level ground.  As well, the study samples used came from breast milk, blood and placenta from across the USA and Canada (not just Kansas like the news article states) while a lesser number and just blood samples were used from Indian participants.  Higher concentrated numbers are going to show up in a smaller data set.

I read the article and the researchers left out the huge variable of pollution.  In comparing group A in Pune, India (vegetarians) to Group B in Kansas (meat eaters), they did not note at all in the article that Pune is loaded with pollution.  It is a hub of Indian manufacturing and one of their most populated cities.  A few years ago, it was named in the bottom end of one of the most polluted cities in India (something like 60 out of 90) and scientific institutes in the country have commented it is a crisis area.  Granted, the article is about generational changes but I suspect in the last two to three generations (since the 1960s when industry really took off), those samples must be really something to study.  I’m not shocked that the vegetarians in Pune have higher rates of cardiovascular problems because air pollution is linked to the same outcome.  The chemicals from manufacturing are often linked with a variety of cancers.  This can be linked to the ongoing bio-medical research that is linking an increase in AA’s (arachidonic acids), inflammation and bad air quality.  A rudimentary understanding of ecological processes teaches us that what is in our air and water goes into our soil and what goes into the soil ends up in our bodies.  I can guarantee that the meat eaters in Kansas live in a much cleaner atmosphere compared to the environment in Pune so their long term health and therefore genomes would undoubtedly reflect such findings.

If anything, this study would come across with much more solid evidence if the study subjects lived in environmentally similar situations.  For instance, meat eaters vs vegetarians in developed countries with similar pollution levels or meat eaters vs vegetarians in underdeveloped countries with similar pollution levels.  People need to eat according to what feels right for themselves or their economic situations.  Though this post may seem like it, I’m not an environmentalist nor subscribe to this whole ‘Mother Earth’ philosophy.  Some days I am just glad I suffered through ‘World Issues’ classes to have a variety of useless information in my head.  The headaches of peer reviewed articles just made me more geeky too.

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