Scientists have shown that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can overcome a genetic predisposition to cardiovascular disease (CVD) in some people.
The Canadian study looked at the interaction between genetics and the environment and their effect on heart health. In particular, the study focused on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which are differences in single building blocks of DNA or nucleotides.
Previous studies have shown a link between an increased risk of heart problems, (heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, etc.) and a cluster of these SNPs in a chromosomal region called 9p21. In this new study, the researchers investigated the link between 9p21 and CVD in a range of people of different ethnicities and diets.
Overall, the study looked at over 27,000 people and found that the negative effect of the 9p21 SNP could be mitigated by consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
The researchers say that consumption of fruit and veg in Northern Ireland is about 20% less than in England. Salt and saturated fat levels are also higher in the parts of the UK outside England.
Changing to an 'English' diet - although it's far from perfect, say the authors of the report, could save about 4,000 lives a year in the rest of the UK.
Do et al., The Effect of Chromosome 9p21 Variants on Cardiovascular Disease May Be Modified by Dietary Intake: Evidence from a Case/Control and a Prospective Study. PLOS Medicine 9(10): e1001106. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001106 LINK
Scarborough P, Morgan RD, Webster P, et al. Differences in coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer mortality rates between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland: the role of diet and nutrition. BMJ Open 2011;1:e000263. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen- 2011-000263 LINK