Long-term vegetarian diet can lead to a genetic mutation that may increase the risk of cancer and heart disease in Indians, a new study by Cornell University researchers has claimed.
The gene identified by scientists helps those who eat plant-based diets to process omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids into compounds that help the development of the brain and control inflammation in the body.
The study has claimed that a long-term vegetarian diet can lead to a genetic mutation that may increase the risk of cancer and heart disease in Indians. It said that evidence was found that a vegetarian diet has led to a mutation that may make people more susceptible to inflammation, and by association, increased risk of heart disease and colon cancer.
The findings that were published in the latest issue of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution had used reference data from the 1000 Genomes Project. The researchers provided evolutionary evidence that a vegetarian diet, over many generations, may have driven the higher frequency of a mutation in the Indian population.
Dr Anil Boraskar, endocrinologist, Scientific Secretary, Diabetes Association of India, said, “I do not agree with this study at all. If the vegetarian diet has carcinoma content, then a huge section of people in India should have got cancer. Such studies need scientific data to establish the point.”
The study explained that the mutation, called rs66698963 and found in the FADS2 gene, is an insertion or deletion of a sequence of DNA that regulates the expression of two genes — FADS1 and FADS2. These genes are key to making long chain polyunsaturated fats, researchers said. The study indicated that the findings show vegetarians with increased risk of heart disease, colon cancer and many other inflammation-related conditions.