A love of lentils could be something passed down through the generations, according to researchers who compared the genes of 5,000 vegetarians to those of more than 320,000 others. Their study, published in the journal PLOS One last week, found that three genes had a strong link to vegetarianism and another 31 had a potential association, Gizmodo reports. Two of the genes with a strong link were associated with how fats, aka lipids, are metabolized. The researchers suspect there could be a lipid nutrient in meat that some people need more than others.
“Dietary choices involve an interplay between the physiologic effects of dietary items, their metabolism, and taste perception, all of which are strongly influenced by genetics,” wrote the researchers, who used data from the UK Biobank project. The vegetarians in the study were people who said they hadn’t eaten meat or fish in at least a year.
The researchers say more studies are needed to fully explain the genetic factors involved. They say they became interested in the subject because many people find it difficult to follow a strict vegetarian diet, with almost 50% of self-identified vegetarians having consumed meat or fish products in the previous year, according to one study. “A lot of people who want to be vegetarian are perhaps not able to,” lead researcher Dr. Nabeel Yaseen of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine tells NPR. “We wanted to know if genetics is part of the reason.” (Read more vegetarian stories.)
Dr. Debi Johnson is a medical expert and health journalist dedicated to promoting well-being. With a background in medicine, she offers evidence-based insights into health trends and wellness practices. Beyond her reporting, Dr. Debi enjoys hiking, yoga, and empowering others to lead healthier lives.