A new study shows that being a vegetarian may be in your DNA.

Not eating meat may not just be a matter of will.


Research published Wednesday in PLOS one shows that there are four genes associated with a person’s ability to adhere to a vegetarian lifestyle.

As of right now, we can state that genetics play a significant influence in vegetarianism and that some individuals may be genetically more suited to a vegetarian diet than others. As said by a primary author of the study, said Dr. Nabeel Yaseen, professor emeritus of pathology in the Northwest, Feinberg University School of Medicine.

Besides religious and cultural practices, health, ethical and environmental reasons are also among the factors that push people to reduce or eliminate meat consumption – but not always they were also successful, as professor Yaseen continues.

When completing in-depth questionnaires, a sizable percentage of persons who self-identify as vegetarians actually admit to consuming meat products. Dr. Said, a second author of the study suggests this implies that many individuals who desire to become vegetarians are unable to do so, and our findings imply that heredity is at least partially to blame for this.

This study cannot determine who may or may not be genetically predisposed to vegetarianism, but researchers hope future work will address that question, Yaseen said.

In the future, this might result in more accurate health information. As claimed by professor of genetics and nutrition at Tufts University in Massachusetts, José Ordovás who is also the director of nutrition and genomics. Empathizing that in the future, we might receive more tailored dietary guidance based on genetic predisposition because the study highlights the complex interplay between our genes and our food choices. As he said.

Links to metabolism and brain function

The researchers used data from the UK Biobank, a large biomedical database and research resource that follows long-term human follow-up.

According to the study, more than 5,000 strict vegetarians, defined as people who had not eaten animal flesh in the previous year, were compared with more than 300,000 people in a control group who had eaten meat in the previous year.

Researchers have identified three well-defined genes and 31 other genes potentially linked to vegetarianism. In a genetic analysis, researchers found that vegetarians were more likely to have different variants of these genes than non-vegetarians.

The reason may be due to the different way each person processes lipids or fats. Some of the genes the study found to be associated with vegetarianism are involved in lipid metabolism, Yaseen said. He added that plants and meat differ in lipid complexity, so some people genetically may need certain lipids provided by meat. “We think this may be due to genetic differences in lipid metabolism and how it affects brain function, but more research is needed to test this hypothesis,” Yaseen said.

This said doesn’t work for everyone. However, this study has limitations, Ordovás.

All participants in the analysis were white, which Yaseen said kept the sample homogeneous to prevent cultural practices from confounding the results. But it also prevents the data from being applied to the entire population, as Ordovás said. Although this study does not offer a conclusive solution, he said it is still vital to examine diet.

“This study highlights a relatively understudied area of research: the genetics behind food preferences,” as Ordovás said.

He emphasized that “The relationship between long-term strict vegetarianism and genetic variations shows a biological basis for this dietary choice, beyond simple cultural, ethical, or environmental considerations.”

So, this study shows us that having the appeal to be vegetarian might be encoded in our genes.

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