Scientists find humans genetically meant to be vegetarians; meat linked to kidney stones
31 August 2006Scientists studying kidney-stone diseases have stumbled across evidence that humans may be genetically more suited to vegetarianism than meat eating.
The discovery was made when the placement of an enzyme known as AGT, which is linked to the rare kidney-stone disease PH1, was found in one area of the liver in herbivores and another in carnivores, Professor Chris Danpure, of University College London, said yesterday.
Evolutionary science indicated that about 10 million years ago the distribution of the enzyme in human ancestors appeared to change from favouring a omnivorous diet to plant eating.
Humans began eating meat only in the past 100,000 years, a habit which has increased dramatically in recent times.
"It would appear that the diet we have now is incompatible with the distribution of this enzyme, which was designed for a herbivore diet, not meat eating," he said.
The human placement of the enzyme was the same as in rabbits, sheep and horses.
"One of the consequences of this could be the high frequency of kidney stones in humans, especially in western societies."
Danpure, who is a guest speaker at the annual Queenstown Molecular Biology Meeting this week, said if the link was proven it had potential for identifying people susceptible to kidney-stone diseases.
More than 300 leading scientists from New Zealand and overseas are attending the conference this week, which was opened by Research, Science and Technology Minister Steve Maharey on Tuesday night.
Molecular biology was helping transform the New Zealand economy and a recent survey found that biotechnology income to New Zealand companies in 2005 was $855 million, he told delegates.
Chris Holbein | Vegan Special Projects Coordinator
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