Good Fat, Bad Fat, All Fat, No Fat

African-American's genetics break down polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) and omega-6 differently

June 17, 2011 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Ever wonder why some populations can eat certain foods and still be healthy, while others try to avoid those same foods completely? This new genetic study may have the answer.

Researchers suggest that genes play a large role in fat processing – specifically for Africa -Americans. Individuals of African descent process fats differently, which can lead to cardiovascular disease, arthritis, allergies, asthma and diabetes.

"Polyunsaturated fats impact are not the same for everyone."

Floyd H. “Ski” Chilton, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology and director of the Center for Botanical Lipids and Inflammatory Disease Prevention, and Rasika Mathias, Sc.D, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, found that lineages break down polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), also known as omega-6, differently.

PUFAs are found in the American diet in foods like margarine, vegetable oils, animal fats and processed meats. Too much PUFA – particularly long-chain PUFA - in the body can lead to a number of chronic inflammatory diseases like cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, allergies, asthma and diabetes.

The researchers found that people who are of African descent have genes that turn medium-chain PUFAs into long-chain PUFAs. So, African Americans who eat a typical American diet are more likely to have an increased number of long-chain PUFAs, which can lead to chronic inflammatory diseases.

Chilton says that it’s crucial to implement personalized nutrition plans because dietary recommendations are often times generalized for multiple populations. But not everybody processes foods the same.

Chilton adds more research should be done for different ethnic groups to refine dietary recommendations according to heritage.

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Review Date: 
June 16, 2011
Last Updated:
June 17, 2011