December 12th, 2008

Amish gene breaks down fats

A small number of Amish have been found to carry a gene that helps to break down fats and lower levels of LDL cholesterol.

It is hoped the finding will lead to new therapies to reduce cholesterol.

The researchers used blood samples from 800 volunteers in the Old Order Amish community to look for DNA markers that might be associated with levels of fat particles called triglycerides in the blood stream.

High blood levels of triglycerides, one of the most common types of fat in food, have been linked to heart disease.

They found a mutation in the APOC3 gene, which encodes a protein – apoC-III – that inhibits the breakdown of triglycerides.

As part of the study, participants drank a high-fat milkshake and were monitored for the next six hours.

Individuals with the mutation produced half the normal amount of apoC-III and had the lowest blood triglyceride levels – seemingly because they could break down more fat.

They also had relatively low levels of artery-hardening – a sign of cardiovascular disease.

That’s all marvelous and peculiar, but what I find truly astonishing is how they got 800 Amish people to cooperate in such an invasive scientific experiment!

BBC Health


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