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17th August 2010: Nutrimenthe researchers demonstrate how our genetic make-up influences how we process fatty acids

Long chain-polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) are known to play a role in several physiological process and have been shown to be associated with improved visual and cognitive development in children. The level and composition of LC-PUFAs in the human body is highly dependant on dietary intake, however, our genetic make-up also influences how we process fatty acids as Nutrimenthe researchers are discovering.  

Eva Lattka, Thomas Illig, Joachim Heinrich (Helmholtz Zentrum Munich, German Research Centre for Environmental Health) and Professor Berthold Koletzko (Dr von Hauner Children’s Hosptial, University of Munich) are looking at polymorphisms in genes called FADS1 and FADS2, which encode key enzymes for the synthesis of LC-PUFAs, delta-5 and delta-6 desaturase. Common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in these genes are associated with plasma levels of LC-PUFAs such as arachidonic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The researchers have identified one functional relevant polymorphism in FADS2, which changes the transcription rate of this gene, offering first insight into the complex regulation mechanisms of FADS2 gene activity by polymorphisms and its impact on fatty acid levels. 

Future work will include testing the association between genotypes and fatty acids levels of both mothers and children taking part in epidemiology and nutritional interventions studies in Nutrimenthe, and the association between genotypes and more complex phenotypes, such as intelligence and cognition.

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