Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Preventing Atherosclerosis

Dinner buffet by Mattes via Wikimedia Commons

Researchers have identified variants in the B4GALT1 gene of Amish people that are associated with low levels of LDL (i.e. “bad”) cholesterol and fibrinogen, a gene involved in blood clotting. In fact, people with variants in this gene are 35% less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease. When the variant was expressed in mice, the animals had similar decreases in LDL cholesterol and fibrinogen. Researchers are hoping to create a medication that can mimic the effects of this gene variant.  

Interestingly, research suggests that atherosclerosis is a disease of herbivores. While carnivores such as dogs and cats can have a lot of circulating fat, it does not build up into plaques. The thyroid gland is likely involved in this protection as removal of the thyroid results in atherosclerosis. Humans typically have a varied diet (omnivorous), although we have a lot of characteristics in common with herbivores such as hands (as opposed to claws), mainly flat teeth for grinding, long intestinal tracts, sweating to cool off (as opposed to panting), and sipping drinks (as opposed to lapping). Herbivores must also obtain vitamin C from their diet whereas carnivores make it.


ME Montasser, CV Van Hout, L Miloscio, AD Howard, A Rosenberg, M Callaway, B Shen, N Li, AE Locke, N Verweij, T De, MA Ferreira, LA Lotta, A Baras, TJ Daly, SA Hartford, W Lin, Y Mao, B Ye, D White, G Gong, JA Perry, KA Ryan, Q Fang, G Tzoneva, E Pefanis, C Hunt, Y Tang, L Lee, Regeneron Genetics Center Collaboration, C Sztalryd-Woodle, BD Mitchell, M Healy, EA Streeten, SI Taylor, JR O’Connell, AN Economides, GD Gatta, AR Schuldiner. Genetic and function evidence links a missense variant in B4GALT1 to lower LDL and fibrinogen. Science. 374(6572): 1221-1227, 2021.

WC Roberts. Twenty questions on atherosclerosis. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 13(2): 139-143, 2000.

Categories: Aging, Diet and Exercise, Illnesses and Injuries, Nature's Solutions

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