By studying populations that have had a historically vegetarian diet - such as those in India, Africa and parts of East Asia - researchers have discovered a gene variation that helps them thrive on a plant-based diet.
"The adaptation allows these people to efficiently process omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and convert them into compounds essential for early brain development and controlling inflammation. In populations that live on plant-based diets, this genetic variation provided an advantage and was positively selected in those groups," according to the study.
Interestingly, scientists found that the Inuits of Greenland, which mainly follow a marine diet, are missing this gene. This indicates that diet may change DNA overtime, which gives new meaning to the old adage "you are what you eat."
“One implication from our study is that we can use this genomic information to try to tailor our diet so it is matched to our genome, which is called personalized nutrition,” explained Kaixiong Ye, co-lead author of the paper.