A study published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution reports that researchers from Cornell University, US have concluded that long–term vegetarianism can lead to genetic mutations and may raise the risk of heart diseases and cancer.
The study refers to a higher frequency of a particular mutation to a primarily vegetarian population from Pune, India (about 70%) when compared to a traditional meat–eating population in Kansas, US (less than 20%). Scientists found that the population who have had a vegetarian diet for generations were more likely to carry a DNA which makes them prone to inflammation. By using the reference data from the 1000 Genomes Project, scientists provided evolutionary evidence that vegetarian diet over many generations may have driven the higher frequency of a mutation in the Indian population. This mutation hinders the production of essential Omega 3 fatty acid, which is found mostly in fatty fish and nuts and is known to protect against heart disease.
Scientists hence, suggest the gene could cause a spike in the production of arachidonic acid and make the body prone to inflammation, cancer and heart disease. This gene turns dangerous if a person with the gene has a diet high in certain vegetable oils comprising Omega 6 as the body will metabolise the fatty acids into arachidonic acid more quickly. Vegetarians, therefore, need to switch to the vegetable oils that are low in Omega 6 linoleic acid.