Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genetic adaptation of fat metabolism key to development of human brain

Date:
April 12, 2012
Source:
Uppsala Universitet
Summary:
About 300,000 years ago humans adapted genetically to be able to produce larger amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. This adaptation may have been crucial to the development of the unique brain capacity in modern humans. In today’s life situation, this genetic adaptation contributes instead to a higher risk of developing disorders like cardiovascular disease.

About 300,000 years ago humans adapted genetically to be able to produce larger amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. This adaptation may have been crucial to the development of the unique brain capacity in modern humans. In today’s life situation, this genetic adaptation contributes instead to a higher risk of developing disorders like cardiovascular disease.

The human nervous system and brain contain large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and these are essential for the development and function of the brain. These Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids occur in high quantities in just a few foods, such as fat fish. Our bodies can also produces these important fatty acids themselves from certain vegetable oils.

In a new study led by researchers at Uppsala University and now being published in The American Journal of Human Genetics scientists have investigated the genes for the two key enzymes that are needed to produce Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils. They have found that humans have a unique genetic variant that leads to increased production. This genetic adaptation for high production of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids is found only in humans, and not in our living primate relatives chimpanzees, gorillas, and rhesus monkeys. Nor did Neanderthals or Denisovans, another type of extinct hominin species, have this genetic variant. It appeared some 300 000 years ago in the evolutionary line that led to modern humans.

This genetic adaptation for more efficient Omega-3 and Omega-6 production from vegetable oils developed in Africa and has probably been an important factor for human survival in environments with limited dietary access to fatty acids.

“During humans’ earlier development, when there was a general energy deficit, this variant made it possible for us to satisfy the great need for polyunsaturated fatty acids required for our unique brain capacity. In today’s life situation, with a surplus of nourishment, this genetic adaptation contributes instead to a greater risk of developing disorders like cardiovascular disease,” says Adam Ameur, a bioinformatician at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology.

“This is the first study to show a genetic adaptation of human fat metabolism. It’s also one of few examples of a so-called ‘thrifty gene,’ that is, a genetic adaptation that contributed to enhanced survival in an earlier stage of human development, but in a life situation with an excess of food instead constitutes a risk factor for lifestyle diseases,” says Ulf Gyllensten, professor of medical molecular genetics at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology.

Several of the researchers behind this study are part of the Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) at Uppsala University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Uppsala Universitet. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ameur et. al. Genetic Adaptation of Fatty-Acid Metabolism: A Human-Specific Haplotype Increasing the Biosynthesis of Long-Chain Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids. American Journal of Human Genetics, April 12, 2012 DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2012.03.014

Cite This Page:

Uppsala Universitet. "Genetic adaptation of fat metabolism key to development of human brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120412133056.htm>.
Uppsala Universitet. (2012, April 12). Genetic adaptation of fat metabolism key to development of human brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120412133056.htm
Uppsala Universitet. "Genetic adaptation of fat metabolism key to development of human brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120412133056.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Freetown a City on Edge

Ebola-Hit Sierra Leone's Freetown a City on Edge

AFP (Aug. 19, 2014) Residents of Sierra Leone's capital voice their fears as the Ebola virus sweeps through west Africa. Duration: 00:56 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
101-Year-Old Working Man Has All The Advice You Need

101-Year-Old Working Man Has All The Advice You Need

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Herman Goldman has worked at the same lighting store for almost 75 years. Find out his secrets to a happy, productive life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
American Ebola Patient Apparently Improving, Outbreak Is Not

American Ebola Patient Apparently Improving, Outbreak Is Not

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) Nancy Writebol, an American missionary who contracted Ebola, is apparently getting better, according to her husband. The outbreak, however, is not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins