DNAmd Nutrition- Are you genetically suited for a Vegan Diet?
Going vegan can sound like a very enticing option- with great heath, environmental, and sustainability benefits. Veganism has undeniable health benefits for many- including better heart health and decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and some kinds of cancer. But for others, removing animal products (and subsequently their nutritional benefits) from their diets can be very dangerous. Studies have linked veganism to an increased risk of stroke, harms brain health, may increase hair loss, and depression.
Just like the keto diet, the difference in reaction to the vegan diet is linked to our unique genomic variations within our genetic code. If you have variations that suggest your body would not do well with the vegan diet, this is not to say you must eat meat. Rather, you should take supplements of the vitamins and minerals you will need from removing animal products.
Genomic testing will be able to tell you if you have the genes that will require you to supplement veganism with extra vitamins and minerals. Below are the genes that will most impact you if you remove all animal products.
FADS1 & FADS2
These genes impact how the body converts short-chain poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) into long-chain PUFAs. Essentially, FADS1 and FADS2 genes convert plant-based omega-3's into products needed for brain development and inflammation control, EPA and DHA
If you are low in omega-3s, your risk of heart disease, depression and anxiety, chronic inflammation, and autoimmune diseases are all increased.
If you have a genetic variation that makes converting plant-based Omega 3's into the active DHA and EPA Omega 3's more difficult, then you will need to supplement your diet with an Omega-3 fish oil supplement.
Choline is a nutrient essential for our metabolism, brain health, neurotransmitter synthesis, lipid transport, and methylation. It is found in animal products, like eggs and meats.
Choline deficiency has been linked to heart disease, neurological conditions, and developmental problems in children.
If you have the variation that causes your body to not internally make choline, you will need to take a choline supplement.
MTHFR & MTRR
These genetic variations directly relate to vitamin B12 and folate, which are naturally found in animal products. These nutrients are critical for red blood cell formation, bone health, mood disorders and brain health, DNA repair and replication, and phase 2 detoxification.
MTHFR and MTRR are only 2 of the many genes involved in the methylation pathway. Variations in these genes decrease B12 and folate absorption and activation, so higher levels are needed. Because B12 is mainly found in animal products, vegans are at a higher risk of a B12 deficiency. Folate can also be found in dark leafy greens and beans.
Vegans with these variations must take a B12 and possibly a folate supplement in order to avoid a deficiency.
VKORC1 & GGCX
Vitamin K metabolism is affected by these genetic variations. Without sufficient Vitamin K, the body cannot produce prothrombin, which is necessary for blood clotting and bone metabolism.
While vitamin K is found in both plant and animal products, you will need supplementation if you have the VKORC1 or GGCX variations.
CYP26B1 & BCMO1
These genes affect the metabolism of beta carotene from plants into the active form of vitamin A. Our cells require the active form of vitamin A for biological functions.
People with these variations have very low efficiency in the conversion of beta carotene from orange and yellow vegetables and fruits into the active form of vitamin A . Vitamin A deficiency can cause blindness and infections as Vitamin A is very important for our immune system and gut health.
Vegans need to take supplements in order to avoid a deficiency. And especially those with the CYP26B1 & BCMO1 variations.
People with a genetic variation of the TMPRSS6 gene are at a greater risk of being iron deficient. TMPRSS6 provides instructions in making a protein essential for regulating iron balance in the body. When working properly, if an iron deficiency is noticed, our body will trigger increased iron absorption. But variations in this gene blocks the absorption of iron through the intestines.
Vegans are already at risk of iron deficiency. Vegans are only getting non-heme iron, which is founds in plant-based foods. Non-heme iron has a lower absorption rate than iron found in meat.
Iron deficiency is linked to fatigue, weakness, abnormal heart rate, and anemia.
If you have a variation of TMPRSS6, taking Vitamin C with your meals will increase non-heme iron absorption.