Unique genetic adaptation helped our brain grow

April 13th, 2012 - 6:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Stockholm, April 13 (IANS) Humans adapted genetically about 300,000 years ago to be able to produce larger amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, says a study.

The human nervous system and brain contain large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega-3 and Omega-6), essential for the development and function of the brain.

“During humans’ earlier development, this variant made it possible for us to satisfy the great need for polyunsaturated fatty acids required for our unique brain capacity,” said Adam Ameur, bioinformatician at the department of immunology, genetics and pathology at Uppsala University.

“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,” added Ameur, The American Journal of Human Genetics reported.

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, according to a university statement.

Researchers at Uppsala University (Sweden) 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 kin chimpanzees, gorillas, and rhesus monkeys.

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