Turn Off The Heart Attack Gene: Eat More Fruits and Veggies

Who says you can’t change the genes you were born with?

When it comes to the gene that is the strongest marker for heart disease, it turns out that eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables seems to turn off its effect.

An international team of scientists found that people who had this high-risk gene, called  9p21, could reduce its effect to the same level as those without the gene by eating a diet heavy in vegetables, fruits and berries.

The study, led by researchers at two Canadian universities, looked at 27,000 people from different parts of the world who ate at least two servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Raw fruits and vegetables seemed to have the biggest effect, researchers said, but cooked vegetables helped as well.

“Despite having a high genetic risk for heart disease, a healthy lifestyle can actually turn off the gene,” Sonia Anand, a lead author and professor of medicine and epidemiology at McMaster University, told ABC News.

Those in the study who had the high-risk gene but ate a diet low in fruits and vegetables had nearly double the heart attack risk when compared to those without the gene.

And what if you don’t know if you have the gene or not? Eating several servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily can still help protect against heart disease.

An earlier international study, which followed more than 300,000 subjects from eight European countries for 8 1/2 years, found that every additional serving of fruits and vegetables above two per day brought a four percent decrease in the rate of heart disease deaths.

The best news is that adding a serving isn’t that difficult.

The Oxford University researchers who led the study said an extra serving a day can be something as simple as eating a small banana, or a medium apple, or a small carrot.

In other words, mom was right. Eat your darn veggies.

Photo credit:  Ed Young/Corbis