Scientists have discovered a group of genes that allow an organism to adapt to different diets and have shown that without these genes even minor dietary changes could cause premature aging and even death.
Finding a genetic basis for an organism's dietary needs suggests that different individuals may be genetically predisposed to thrive on different diets - and that now, in the age of commercial gene sequencing, people might be able to identify which diet would work best for them through a simple blood test.
"These studies have revealed that single gene mutations can alter the ability of an organism to utilize a specific diet. In humans, small differences in a person's genetic makeup that change how well these genes function, could explain why certain diets work for some but not others," Sean Curran corresponding author of the study from University of Southern California, said.
Curran along with Shanshan Pang studied Caenorhabditis elegans, a one-milimeter-long worm that scientists have used as a model organism since the '70s. Decades of tests have shown that genes in C. elegans are likely to be mirrored in humans while its short lifespan allows scientists to do aging studies on it.
The researchers identified a gene called alh-6, which delayed the effects of aging depending on what type of diet the worm was fed by protecting it against diet-induced mitochondrial defects.
The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.