While you can control how much saturated fat and cholesterol you eat in foods, you can't yet control whether your genetic inheritance will turn these fats against you or will confer some protection from them.
Recent research findings, to be presented today at a symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS)'s annual meeting, will highlight the strong influence that genes play in determining individual variations in response to diet. As a result of their actions, these genes can influence whether an individual is predisposed to obesity or to developing atherosclerosis, the disease process that underlies heart disease and stroke, the nation's No. 1 killer.
Such research may help explain why two people who eat the same foods can have very different blood levels of cholesterol, particularly "bad" LDL cholesterol.
High blood cholesterol and in particular high LDL is one of the risk factors for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association, co-sponsor of the AAAS symposium titled, "Gene-Diet Interactions in Coronary Heart Disease." The LDL (low-density lipoprotein) sticks to the inside lining of blood vessels, helping to create the plaque obstructions that block blood flow, causing heart attacks and strokes.
"When a large group of people go on the same diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, their LDL levels can vary widely," said Ronald Krauss, M.D., organizer of and one of the speakers at the AAAS symposium.
Also speaking at the symposium will be three other internationally recognized scientists in research on genetics and nutrition in cardiovascular disease: Claude Bouchard, M.D., Jan L. Breslow, M.D., and Rene Malinow, M.D.
"Recent evidence indicates that genetic factors can contribute to these differences in dietary response," said Krauss, who is also chairman of the American Heart Association's national volunteer nutrition committee.