Ron Do and colleagues find that a prudent diet high in raw vegetables may modify the increased genetic risk of cardiovascular disease conferred by the chromosome 9p21 SNP.
One of the most robust genetic associations for cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the Chromosome 9p21 region. However, the interaction of this locus with environmental factors has not been extensively explored. We investigated the association of 9p21 with myocardial infarction (MI) in individuals of different ethnicities, and tested for an interaction with environmental factors.
Methods and Findings
We genotyped four 9p21 SNPs in 8,114 individuals from the global INTERHEART study. All four variants were associated with MI, with odds ratios (ORs) of 1.18 to 1.20 (1.85×10−8≤p≤5.21×10−7). A significant interaction (p = 4.0×10−4) was observed between rs2383206 and a factor-analysis-derived “prudent” diet pattern score, for which a major component was raw vegetables. An effect of 9p21 on MI was observed in the group with a low prudent diet score (OR = 1.32, p = 6.82×10−7), but the effect was diminished in a step-wise fashion in the medium (OR = 1.17, p = 4.9×10−3) and high prudent diet scoring groups (OR = 1.02, p = 0.68) (p = 0.014 for difference). We also analyzed data from 19,129 individuals (including 1,014 incident cases of CVD) from the prospective FINRISK study, which used a closely related dietary variable. In this analysis, the 9p21 risk allele demonstrated a larger effect on CVD risk in the groups with diets low or average for fresh vegetables, fruits, and berries (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.22, p = 3.0×10−4, and HR = 1.35, p = 4.1×10−3, respectively) compared to the group with high consumption of these foods (HR = 0.96, p = 0.73) (p = 0.0011 for difference). The combination of the least prudent diet and two copies of the risk allele was associated with a 2-fold increase in risk for MI (OR = 1.98, p = 2.11×10−9) in the INTERHEART study and a 1.66-fold increase in risk for CVD in the FINRISK study (HR = 1.66, p = 0.0026).
The risk of MI and CVD conferred by Chromosome 9p21 SNPs appears to be modified by a prudent diet high in raw vegetables and fruits.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs)—diseases that affect the heart and/or the blood vessels—are a leading cause of illness and death worldwide. In the United States, for example, the leading cause of death is coronary heart disease, a CVD in which narrowing of the heart's blood vessels by fatty deposits slows the blood supply to the heart and may eventually cause a heart attack (myocardial infarction, or MI); the third leading cause of death in the US is stroke, a CVD in which the brain's blood supply is interrupted. Environmental factors such as diet, physical activity, and smoking alter a person's risk of developing CVD. In addition, certain genetic variants (alterations in the DNA that forms the body's blueprint; DNA is packed into structures called chromosomes) alter the risk of developing CVD and are passed from parent to child. Thus, in CVD, as in most common diseases, both genetics and the environment play a role.
Why Was This Study Done?
Recent studies have identified several genetic variants that are associated with an increased risk of developing CVD. One of the most robust of these genetic associations is a cluster of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, differences in a single DNA building block) in a chromosomal region (locus) called 9p21. So far, this association has been mainly studied in European populations. Moreover, the interaction of this locus with environmental factors has not been extensively studied. A better understanding of how 9p21 variants affect CVD risk in people of different ethnicities and of the interaction between this locus and environmental factors could allow the development of targeted strategies for the prevention of CVD. In this study, the researchers investigate the association of 9p21 risk variants with CVD in people of different ethnicities and test for an interaction between this locus and environmental factors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers assessed four 9p21 SNPs in people enrolled in the INTERHEART study, a global retrospective case-control study that investigated potential MI risk factors by comparing people who had had an acute non-fatal MI with similar people without heart disease. All four SNP risk variants increased the risk of MI by about a fifth. However, the effect of the SNPs on MI was influenced by the “prudent” diet pattern score of the INTERHEART participants, a score that includes fresh fruit and vegetable intake as recorded in food frequency questionnaires. That is, the risk of MI in people carrying SNP risk variants was influenced by their diet. The strongest interaction was seen with an SNP called rs2383206, but although rs2383206 carriers who ate a diet poor in fruits and vegetables had a higher risk of MI than people with a similar diet who did not carry this SNP, rs2383206 carriers and non-carriers who ate a fruit- and vegetable-rich diet had a comparable MI risk. Overall, the combination of the least “prudent” diet and two copies of the risk variant (human cells contain two complete sets of chromosomes) was associated with a two-fold increase in risk for MI in the INTERHEART study. Additionally, data collected in the FINRISK study, which characterized healthy individuals living in Finland at baseline and then followed them to see whether they developed CVD, revealed a similar interaction between diet and 9p21 SNPs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the risk of CVD conferred by chromosome 9p21 SNPs may be influenced by diet in multiple ethnic groups. Importantly, they suggest that the deleterious effect of 9p21 SNPs on CVD might be mitigated by consuming a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. The accuracy of these findings may be affected by recall bias in the INTERHEART study (that is, some people may not have remembered their diet accurately) and by the small number of CVD cases in the FINRISK study. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that gene–environment interactions are important drivers of CVD, and they raise the possibility that a sound diet can mediate the effects of 9p21 SNPs.
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001106.
The American Heart Association provides information about many types of cardiovascular disease for patients, caregivers, and professionals and tips on keeping the heart healthy
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about cardiovascular disease and stroke
Information is available from the British Heart Foundation on heart disease and keeping the heart healthy
The US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute provides information on a wide range of cardiovascular diseases
MedlinePlus provides links to many other sources of information on heart diseases, vascular diseases, and stroke (in English and Spanish)
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a simple fact sheet on gene-environment interactions; the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences provides links to other information on gene-environment interactions
More information is available on the INTERHEART study and on the FINRISK study