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Unzipping our fat genes

New research helps explain how our genetic makeup affects our bodies’ response to different nutrients. 

New research provides scientific insight into your fat genes. (The genes that affect how you will respond to omega-3 fatty acids, not the Levi’s that haven’t fit since the Clinton administration).

While most people who take an omega-3 supplement experience a decrease in blood triglyceride levels within a few weeks, nearly a third don’t. Researchers at Laval University in Quebec, Canada investigated possible genetic explanations. Their results were published in the Journal of Lipid Research and discussed by the editors of the PUFA Newsletter in the August issue, who point out the potential benefit of deeper understanding of a genetic cause.

“Why increase your omega-3 PUFA intake if you know you will not receive additional benefit at a specific point in your life over your minimally recommended needs for EPA and DHA?” ask the editors. “On the other hand, a person might switch to taking EPA/DHA if it were clear that he/she would be a high responder and could decide to stop taking a specific prescribed drug instead, to markedly reduce the risk for a specific disorder.”

For the study, researchers examined the genomes of participants who took five grams a day of fish oil for six weeks. One group of participants responded to the EPA/DHA supplementation with lower triglyceride levels while another did not. After analyzing participant genomes, researchers were able to identify specific differences in the genes of subjects in the two groups.

Their work promises impact beyond just EPA/DHA efficacy. “The possibility to measure our individual genetic variability will allow the development of methods for predicting the extent to which each of us responds to specific essential nutrients and particular health conditions,” they write.

Earlier this year, members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics increased their recommendations for omega-3 fatty acids, suggesting that adults should consumer between 20-35 calories from dietary fat, increase their consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and limit their intake of saturated and trans fats.

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