Is vegetarian diet really healthier? Depends on your genes

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Carrie Buck in 1924

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Why is it that some people can stay healthy only by sticking to a strict vegetarian diet? Why is it that others can eat a steak a day, remain slim, avoid heart disease and feel like a million dollars? The answers may lie in your heritage.

Cornell University researchers have found a fascinating genetic variation that they said appears to have evolved in populations that favored vegetarian diets over hundreds of generations. The geography of the vegetarian allele is vast and includes people from India, Africa and parts of East Asia who are known to have green diets even today.

Researcher Kaixiong Ye said that the vegetarian adaptation allows people to “efficiently process omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and convert them into compounds essential for early brain development.”

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Omega-3 is found in fish, whole grains, olive oil, fruits and vegetables, while omega-6 is found in beef, pork products and many packaged snack foods such as cookies, candies, cakes and chips, as well as in nuts and vegetable oils.

Studies have suggested that humans evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids of 1:1 but that the Western diet has a ratio that is closer to 15 or 16:1. The Mediterranean diet, in contrast, is closer to having an equal balance of the two and is recommended by many doctors.

Read full, original post: Cornell study finds some people may be genetically programmed to be vegetarians

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