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Mutant gene prevents heart disease

New research by US scientists has discovered that a "mutant" gene exists that can protect the heart from the effects of fatty food.

Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that there are a few lucky individuals who have this gene.

The DNA of more than 800 members of the Old Order Amish community in Pennsylvania was studied, and around 5% of the volunteers were found to a gene mutation that reduced levels of triglyceride fats in the blood and helped prevent heart disease.

Study leader Dr Toni Pollin said: "Our findings suggest that having a lifelong deficiency of apoC-III helps to protect people from developing cardiovascular disease."

The gene, known as APOC3, produces a protein, apoC-III, that normally inhibits the breakdown of triglycerides.

People with the mutant version of APOC3, including those in Lancaster County, were able to break down more triglycerides and clean them out of their blood, which cut their chances of developing cardiovascular disease.

They also had higher levels of "good" high density lipoprotein cholesterol, and lower levels of "bad" low density lipoprotein cholesterol, despite any fatty food that they consumed.

Study leader Dr Toni Pollin said: "We found that about 5% of the Amish have a gene mutation that speeds up the breakdown of triglycerides, which are fat particles in the blood associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease."

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University of Maryland School of Medicine