Genetics and Environment

Genetics and Environment

Orange mint bright

A study performed in Denmark was recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This research highlights the importance and interaction between our genetics and our environment in terms of the risk of certain diseases like cardiovascular disease and the subsequent effects in the risk of early mortality. Health and wellness, or disability and disease are a direct consequence of the interplay between our genetics and our environment. There is no single variable more powerful in determining the environmental component of that equation than the cumulative exposure of the comestibles we choose to consume.

Fruit and vegetables are an important dietary source of vitamin C. However, there are also certain genetics that are also associated with higher vitamin C levels. The genetic marker, solute carrier family 23 member 1 (SLC23A1) rs33972313 is associated with higher plasma levels of vitamin C. The researchers evaluated almost 100,000 people as part of the Copenhagen General Population Study (CGPS) and the Copenhagen City Heart Study. Those consuming the most fruit and vegetables had about a 13% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 20% lower risk of early all-cause mortality compared to those who rarely ate fruits or vegetables.

These findings were not surprising. What was interesting was that the benefit may be linked to those persons that can generate higher levels of vitamin C due to their genetic machinery. Just having those genetics seem to confer protective benefit. If you happen to have the right genetics, you can maximize your benefit with smart dietary choices. What is even more reassuring, however, is that even if you were not born with the (SLC23A1) rs33972313 gene; you have the opportunity to make up the difference through diet. That is truly eating well and living better.

Kobylecki, C. J., Afzal, S., Smith, G. D., & Nordestgaard, B. G. (2015). Genetically high plasma vitamin C, intake of fruit and vegetables, and risk of ischemic heart disease and all-cause mortality: a Mendelian randomization study. Am J Clin Nutr, 101:1135-1143 doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.114.104497.