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Know Your Genes: FADS1 “The Vegetarian Gene”

DHA levels

The Fatty Acid Desaturase (FADS1) gene is associated with the synthesis of FADS1 protein, an enzyme secreted in the liver and shown to be associated with the conversion of shorter chain fatty acids to longer length active forms. The FADS1 protein is found to be associated with the conversion of omega 3 and omega 6 from plant based fats to functional and longer forms like EPA, DHA and arachidonic acid (AA). Animal meat, fish and eggs are already rich in EPA, DHA and arachidonic acid, which reduces the need for the FADS1 protein. People with the C variant of the gene are found to be associated with reduced activity of the protein.

Individuals who do not produce sufficient amount of fatty acids need to consume more animal foods to meet requirements, while individuals who can convert plant-based oils to EPA, DHA and arachidonic acid would benefit from consuming a diet that is rich in vegetable oils and lower in omega-6-rich animal meats.

When excess of omega-6-rich foods is consumed, it is found to be associated with inflammation which is found to increase the risk for diabetes and heart disease. Individuals who can synthesize long chain fatty acids from plant sources should, therefore, select sea food to meet PUFA requirements.


The FADS1 single nucleotide polymorphism that we include is found to have a significant association with the fatty acid composition in our blood. The ancestral allele C (rs174547) was predominant among the hunter gatherers and, with the start of farming, the allele T became the predominant allele.

Association with Omega 3 and Omega 6 need:

In a study conducted on 3521 Chinese participants and 8962 participants of European ancestry, individuals with the C variant of the gene were found to have lower levels of the long forms of fatty acids like AA.

In another study conducted on nearly 1200 Chinese men, Individuals with the T variant of the gene were more responsive to the cholesterol lowering effect of dietary eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), with reduction in coronary artery disease risk among individuals with high intake of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. In a review study conducted on Japanese men, vegans with the C variant of the gene were found to have lower plasma concentrations of EPA, DHA and AA than individuals who were omnivores. Vegetarians with the C variant of the gene are shown to benefit from consuming omega 3 supplements or omega 3 rich foods like chia seed, flax seeds and canola oil.







[Advantage] More likely to have increased activity of the fatty acid saturase enzyme

[Advantage] More likely to derive long chain fatty acids from a vegetarian diet

  • People with this variant of the gene would benefit from a vegetarian diet.
  • In case of non-vegetarians, a diet that includes seafood instead of red meat is recommended.
  • Fish oil can be consumed as supplements or by eating fish.  
  • Fish that are especially rich in omega 3 fatty acids include tuna, herring mackerel, cod liver, seal blubber and whale blubber

[Limitation]More likely to have decreased activity of the fatty acid saturase enzyme [Advantage] More likely to benefit from a diet rich in animal fats

  • People with this variant would benefit from a diet rich in animal fats, especially fish.
  • In case of vegetarians, consuming twice the amount of canola oil when compared to people with the T variant would help increase the level of EPA.
  • Omega 3 supplements may be consumed to compensate for the reduction in EPA due to lowered enzyme activity.
  • Omega 3 foods that are rich vegetarian sources include chia seeds, flax seed oil and canola oil




Related Links:

Find out which variation of the gene you carry and more at

Nutrigenetics, fitness genetics, health genetics are all nascent but rapidly growing areas within human genetics. The information provided herein is based on preliminary scientific studies and it is to be read and understood in that context.”


Xcode is a pioneer in personal genomics, focussed on enabling personalized preventive healthcare. We are dedicated to empowering physicians, wellness professionals and customers with the most validated, accurate and actionable genomic information to positively impact and improve their client’s health and quality of life.

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