An international team of scientists has concluded that the effects of a gene typically associated with heart disease can actually be mitigated by "generous amounts" of fruit and raw vegetables.
"We know that 9p21 genetic variants increase the risk of heart disease for those that carry it," explained Dr. Jamie Engert, joint principal investigator of the study, who is a researcher in cardiovascular diseases at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and associate member in the Department of Human Genetics at McGill University.
"But it was [certainly] a surprise to find that a healthy diet could significantly weaken its effect."
According to Engert, the above-mentioned research involved the analysis of more than 27,000 individuals from five ethnicities - European, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American and Arab - and the affect their diets had on the effect of the 9p21 gene.
The results suggest that individuals with the high risk genotype who consumed a prudent diet, composed primarily of raw vegetables, fruits and berries, had a similar risk of heart attack to those with the low risk genotype.
"We observed that the effect of a high-risk genotype can be mitigated by consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables," said Sonia Anand, joint principal investigator of the study, and a researcher at the Population Health Research Institute and a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University.
"Our results support the public health recommendation to consume more than five servings of fruits or vegetables as a way to promote good health."
Dr. Ron Do, the study's lead author, concluded that there is likely an "important interplay" between genes and diet in cardiovascular disease.
"[Obviously], future research is necessary to understand the mechanism of this [complex] interaction, which will shed light on the underlying metabolic processes that the 9p21 gene is involved in," he added.