Column #145

When reading the “news,” most often the anti-meat story is told and retold. So we meat eaters always enjoy a little negative vegan news now and then. It came recently when London’s “The Telegraph,” an award-winning, multimedia news brand, published an article titled: “Long term vegetarian diet changes human DNA raising risk of cancer and heart disease” by Sarah Knapton.

Ms. Knapton’s article was based on a report by Kumar S. D. Kothapalli, et al., at Cornell University published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. The long-winded title is: “Positive Selection on a Regulatory Insertion–Deletion Polymorphism in FADS2 Influences Apparent Endogenous Synthesis of Arachidonic Acid.”

Unsurprisingly, with a title that makes your eyes roll back into your head, it’s no wonder the 2016 report took a couple of years to surface in a mainstream publication. So what does it say in layman’s terms about cancer risks and the vegan way?

The report states that over many thousands of years, a vegetarian diet caused a mutation in people which can produce more inflammation, and by association, increase the risk of heart disease and colon cancer when people stray from a balanced omega-6 to omega-3 diet. Apparently the mutation occurred to enable vegetarians to better absorb fatty acids from plants. Unfortunately the muted gene boosts the production of arachidonic acid, a polyunsaturated Omega-6 fatty acid 20:4(w-6). That’s an unhealthy event which is exacerbated by the use of modern vegetable oils.

In technical terms the report explains that “Twenty and twenty-two carbon long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), especially arachidonic acid (ARA;20:4n-6), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 20:5n-3), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n-3) are ubiquitous in mammalian tissue.” The LCPUFA can be obtained directly from animal foods by meat eaters or by endogenous synthesis (developed within an organism) which is the vegan way since they rely almost exclusively on endogenous synthesis to generate their LCPUFAs.

“Vegans rely on this biochemical pathway to generate all LCPUFA from precursors. Classic carnivores (e.g., cats and most marine fish) have lost the metabolic ability to make LCPUFA and rely on consumption of animal tissue to supply all their LCPUFA requirements.”

When humans took divergent paths throughout the world, some became primally vegetarians, some meat eaters, and some fish eaters. The meat eaters and fish eaters had no problem maintaining a 1:1 balance in Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA). And as the mutant gene in vegetarians developed, they too could easily maintain a 1:1 EFA balance by relying mostly on green leafy plants.

The significance of this report is multifaceted. It recognizes the importance of a 1:1 EFA balance to prevent chronic diseases. It underscores the importance of eating meats that are also properly balanced. It emphasizes how important it is for vegans to avoid the non-animal foods that are high in Omega-6 because their bodies may produce excessive amounts of inflammatory arachidonic acid. It also underscores the fact that the two apposing EFA families compete for positions in the body which increases the importance of having a diet with a 1:1 EFA balance.

The best properly balanced EFA foods are wild-caught seafood, grass-fed meats, omega-3 meats, and many vegetables especially the green leafy ones. The foods to avoid that are high in Omega-6 include all vegetable oils with high ratios, all grains, most seeds, all nuts except macadamia nuts, many fruits, grain-fed beef, and other grain-fed meats such as free range and pastured chicken, free range heritage pigs, pastured pigs, and farmed seafood.

For optimizing health the basic dietary goals are the same for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Eat low glycemic foods that are nutrient dense and diverse with 1:1 EFA balances.

To your health.

Ted Slanker

Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.

Don't miss these links for additional reading:

Long Term Vegetarian Diet Changes Human DNA Raising Risk of Cancer and Heart Disease by Sarah Knapton

Positive Selection on a Regulatory Insertion–Deletion Polymorphism in FADS2 Influences Apparent Endogenous Synthesis of Arachidonic Acid by Kumar S. D. Kothapalli, et al.

A Vegetarian Diet Could Cause Long-Term Genetic Changes by David Nield

Are We What We Eat? Evidence of a Vegetarian Diet Permanently Shaping the Human Genome to Change Individual Risk of Cancer and Heart Disease by Joseph Caspermeyer

Move over Kale; Steak Is the New Superfood! by Amanda Radke

Arachidonic Acid from Wikipedia

About Molecular Biology and Evolution

The Importance of the Ratio of Omega 6 Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids by Artemis Simopoulos M.D.

Ted Slanker's Omega-3 Blood Test

Get Your Own Omega-3 Blood Test and use slanker as a code for a discount

Food Analysis: GI, GL, Fat Ratio, Nutrient Load by Ted Slanker