According to researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a rare gene variant that typically arises in Amish communities may hold the answer to preventing heart disease.
The study found that those that have this particular gene, known as B4GALT1, seem to have lower levels of heart-damaging cholesterol, as well as a blood-clotting protein called fibrinogen.
Less than one in 10,000 people have this gene, yet amazingly 12 per cent of the Pennsylvania Amish community in Lancaster County carry the gene variant.
Past studies on the gene showed that specific mutations can change one’s cholesterol levels, too much of which can cause obstructed arteries and cardiovascular disease, which remains the leading cause of death worldwide.
Researchers involved in the study claim this is the first time scientists have isolated a gene that reduces two separate yet important heart disease risk factors.
Study leader and University of Maryland School of Medicine assistant professor May Montasser, PhD, in a media release, said that leveraging data from more than 500,000 from the general population, it was found that those who carried the variant had a 35 per cent lower risk of heart disease compared to those who didn’t.
And she said that the genetic variant seems to either repress the synthesis of cholesterol and fibrinogen or stimulate their removal from the blood, which protects the heart, and that this finding could lead to targeted drugs that imitate the action of this variant to keep arteries free of plaque and clots.
The study revealed that genetic samples taken from approximately 7,000 Amish participants, who have been working with the University’s Medical School team since 1995, were sequenced by researchers.
The study finally found a link between having the B4GALT1 gene variant and approximately 14 mg/dL lower LDL cholesterol with 30 mg/dL lower fibrinogen.
The research team studied how the gene variant affected mice genetically altered to carry B4GALT1 based on this connection.
Reports study leader Guisy Della Gatta said that the mouse model, encoding for this gene mutation, also showed reduced levels of LDL cholesterol and fibrinogen, establishing the effect of the variant.
She said this model served as an invaluable tool to unravel the molecular mechanisms that help protect against cardiovascular disease.
Researchers revealed that the reason behind the highly concentrated amount of the rare gene variant among the Amish population stems from their common lineage and homogeneous lifestyle.
It seems that the Amish people have lower cholesterol and better overall health because they actually work hard for a living and aren’t couch potatoes eating processed foods, and they don’t smoke or drink, don’t stress about nonsense and their version of social media is meeting up with their neighbours for supper.
The Amish community have lived this kind of lifestyle for a long time and they don’t know any different, but it works extremely well for them. If we all went back to horses and carts, with no radio, TV, internet et cetera, nobody would last a week because they wouldn’t be able to handle the boredom.
They live a different lifestyle, eat healthier and are more productive, so I’m sure that’s a huge factor.
Amish health is probably more to do with their lifestyle than a genetic sequence. Manual labour outdoors, unprocessed food, family values and avoiding the toxic modern culture of instantaneous gratification and snap chatting. There, that’s saved millions of dollars of research, and it’s absurd to think that scientists have secured millions in funding to find out what’s in plain sight.