Vegetarian genetic mutation increases disease risk

Our Beloved FoundFamily:
I’ve never been an advocate for one specific kind of diet over the long-term. While there are certain kinds of diets that work well for cleansing and healing, experience has shown that the best diet for maintaining good health overall is a balanced one with a focus on organic whole foods free of chemical additives, herbicides, pesticides, and high levels of processing.

A recent study published in Molecular Biology and Evolution has shown that populations that have had a primarily vegetarian diet for generations carry a genetic mutation that significantly raises the risk of cancer and heart disease. The research shows that the genetic mutation is a very old one and occurred over time in order to make it easier for vegetarians to absorb fatty acids from plants. The best sources of essential fatty acids come from animal products such as fish, grass-fed meat, and eggs. A small percentage can be obtained from nuts and seeds.

As the bodies of people in vegetarian cultures use this genetic mutation to extract fatty acids from their plant-based diet, an unfortunate by product occurs, a significant increase in the production of arachidonic acid. It’s this inflammatory byproduct that greatly increases their risk for heart disease and cancer.

I’ve spoken about the dangers of highly processed vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower, canola, and safflower oil before. It’s precisely these oils that vegetarians often substitute for animal fats in their diet. Unfortunately, when coupled with a diet containing these oils, the mutated gene quickly turns fatty acids into dangerous amounts of arachidonic acid. Researchers stated that these findings could very well be the answer as to why previous studies have shown historically vegetarian populations are nearly 40% more likely to suffer from colorectal cancer than meat eaters.

In the study, researchers from Cornell University compared hundreds of genomes from the vegetarian population of Pune, India to traditional meat-eating people in Kansas and found a significant genetic difference in the ability to extract fatty acids from plants. One researcher stated, “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.” To make matters worse, the mutation also hinders the production of beneficial Omega-3 fatty acid, which is crucial for protection against heart disease.

While these findings apply directly to those who are born into a culture with an ancient heritage of vegetarianism, they make no assumptions about people from traditional meat-eating western cultures that choose a vegetarian diet later in life. Even so, these discoveries will prove valuable in helping us better treat those from ancient vegetarian cultures with related diseases.

Love, Light, and Clarity in the Month Ahead,
Dr. Habib Sadeghi

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    1. Kumar, S et al. (2016). Positive selection on a regulatory insertion–deletion polymorphism in fads2 influences apparent endogenous synthesis of arachidonic acid. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 33(7), 1726-1739,


Dr. Sadeghi
Dr. Habib Sadeghi is the founder of Be Hive of Healing, an integrative medical center based in Los Angeles. He specializes in multi-disciplinary treatment for chronic illnesses that include osteopathic, anthroposophical, environmental, psychosomatic, family, and German new medicine, as well as clinical pharmacology. He served as an attending Physician and Clinical Facilitator at UCLA-Santa Monica Medical Center and is currently a Clinical Instructor of Family Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences. He is the author of two books, The Clarity Cleanse: 12 steps to finding renewed energy, spiritual fulfillment and emotional healing, and Within: A spiritual awakening to love & weight loss. Dr. Sadeghi is also a regular contributor to Goop, CNN, BBC News and the Huffington Post, and is the publisher of the health and well-being journal, MegaZEN. Read biography 
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