Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine have unveiled a deeper understanding of how the genes in African-American and Hispanic-American populations affect the utilization of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. This breakthrough paves the way for “precision nutrition,” a personalized dietary approach that caters to our unique bodily needs, potentially promoting longevity and improved health.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 are considered beneficial fats, derived from foods and commonly consumed as supplements. Omega-3 bolsters the immune system and potentially reduces heart disease risk, while Omega-6 strengthens immunity and provides additional advantages. Crucial for cellular functionality, elevated levels of these fatty acids in the bloodstream are believed to decrease the likelihood of ailments such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and breast cancer, among others.
Research has extensively explored the genetic influence on Omega-3 and Omega-6 utilization in individuals of European origin. However, studies focusing on Hispanic and African Americans have been limited. Dr. Ani W. Manichaikul and her team at UVA aimed to bridge this gap. Their recent discoveries showcase both striking similarities and notable differences across these groups. Such variations emphasize the significance of conducting genetic research across a diverse population spectrum.
“By including participants from varied backgrounds in our research, we can detect unique genetic variations among different ancestries,” stated Manichaikul from UVA’s Center for Public Health Genomics and Department of Public Health Sciences. “This study advances our understanding, allowing us to better identify individuals who might be more susceptible to fatty acid deficiencies.”
Manichaikul and her team delved into data from over 1,400 Hispanic-Americans and 2,200 African-Americans to grasp the genetic variances more clearly. This data was sourced from the international CHARGE consortium, which was established to support expansive genetic studies.
Manichaikul’s team found that many genetic insights related to fatty-acid metabolism, previously observed in those of European ancestry, were also applicable to individuals of Hispanic and African origins. For instance, a specific chromosome location, known to regulate fatty acid use in Europeans, was similarly crucial for Hispanic and African populations. Numerous such genetic overlaps were identified across all three demographics.
However, Manichaikul’s team uncovered distinct differences, identifying several new genetic factors affecting fatty-acid levels in both Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans.
Researchers observed variations in how Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans metabolize fatty acids, shedding light on their unique bodily responses. These findings could also provide insights into why individuals with significant American Indigenous roots within the Hispanic community frequently exhibit reduced fatty acid levels in their bloodstream.
Published in Communications Biology, the researchers’ recent discoveries pave the way for further exploration into how variations in fatty acid levels might impact disease outcomes, including cancer, or the immune system’s efficiency. Such insights could eventually guide “precision nutrition” strategies, where customized diets or targeted supplements enhance health results.
“We’ve identified novel genetic variations related to fatty acids, which weren’t evident in our previous research due to limited genetic diversity,” Manichaikul stated. “Moving forward, we aim to encompass a broader range of ancestral and genetic diversity to further understand how diverse human DNA variations impact health.”
Originally published by UVA Health. View the original article.