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Bad genes are no match for a good diet

Eating fresh fruit and raw vegetables can weaken genetic effects that are strongly linked to heart disease, a study has shown.

The healthy foods appear to modify genetic code variants on the 9p21 chromosome known to increase heart disease risk.

The finding emerged from one of the largest diet and gene heart studies conducted.

Scientists analysed DNA from more than 27,000 people of European, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American and Arab ethnic background.

Participants were also questioned about their dietary habits.

Dr Jamie Engert, one of lead researchers, said: "We know that 9p21 genetic variants increase the risk of heart disease for those that carry it.

"But it was a surprise to find that a healthy diet could significantly weaken its effect."

The findings, reported in the online journal Public Library of Science Medicine, showed the heart benefits of eating a diet rich in raw vegetables, fruits and berries.

People with the high-risk mutations who ate healthily had a similar risk of heart disease as those with low-risk versions of the genetic code variants.

Judy O'Sullivan, a senior cardiac nurse, said: "This should serve as a reminder that while our lifestyle and genes can increase our risk, the way they interact with each other is also very important.

"The message appears to be very simple: eating lots of fruit and vegetables is great news for our heart health."

hnews@herald.ie