The internet bombards us with countless promises of the perfect diet or nutrition plan to melt off pounds, make us feel 20 again, and even optimize our bedroom activities. Millions are searching for how to improve their health in a variety of ways and therefore chase after these perfect plans. Sometimes, they land on the diet that works for them. Too many, though, jump from one diet to the next, never finding their secret sauce to wellness. This studies highlights why there are so many options on the internet and why finding the right one is easier said than done.
Aren’t we all wired the same way? Don’t we all use the same metabolic processes to burn fats, carbs, and proteins? Don’t we all need the same vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients? Those questions and other similar ones all have the same answer, “yes”. The problem does not come from these foundational similarities, but from the nuances of how we carry out these same processes slightly differently from one another. These differences arise primarily from genetic variance between individuals. Beyond that, environmental factors also modify what processes work and how they work.
This study looked at differences between test subjects of European descent and those of either Hispanic or African-American descent in regards to the processing of Omega 3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids, mainly derived from fish oils (but available from certain plants), are known to play a major role in heart disease, diabetes, brain diseases, breast cancer and other illnesses. While their importance for all ethnicities is known (because of those shared foundational metabolic pathways), other studies indicate that some ethnicities handle them differently.
Without getting into the nitty-gritty details, we can glean some helpful facts from this study. Those with African American ancestry possessed a higher rate of enzymes which could lengthen polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s) such as omega 3’s and omega 6’s (like arachidonic acid known for its inflammatory effects). On the other hand, Hispanic subjects who possessed the genetic ancestry of American indigenous populations possessed enzyme versions (FADS) which were less efficient at this process leading to lower levels of these fatty acids.
Given the links between these fatty acid concentrations and various metabolic illnesses, recognition of these differences can help medical providers tailor their testing and therapies to the needs of the person sitting in front of them. Each patient is different and requires attention to their uniqueness. As our understanding of these genetic contributions to disease susceptibility grows, precision nutrition can enable us to optimize each of our patient’s health statuses based on their individuality. We want each patient we see to achieve their own healthier more abundant life.
Article in Focus:
Chaojie Yang, Jenna Veenstra, Traci M. Bartz, Matthew C. Pahl, Brian Hallmark, Yii-Der Ida Chen, Jason Westra, Lyn M. Steffen, Christopher D. Brown, David Siscovick, Michael Y. Tsai, Alexis C. Wood, Stephen S. Rich, Caren E. Smith, Timothy D. O’Connor, Dariush Mozaffarian, Struan F. A. Grant, Floyd H. Chilton, Nathan L. Tintle, Rozenn N. Lemaitre, Ani Manichaikul. Genome-wide association studies and fine-mapping identify genomic loci for n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in Hispanic American and African American cohorts. Communications Biology, 2023; 6 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s42003-023-05219-w
Thanks to Science Daily:
University of Virginia Health System. “Omega-3 discovery moves us closer to ‘precision nutrition’ for better health.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 October 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/10/231011182207.htm>.
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.