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By Kelley Herring
If you have turned on the news or opened your social media accounts over the last few months it’s hard to miss that there is a national (and global) debate going on about health.
And I’m not just referring to the debates about “The Virus”… whether the measures meant to “protect” us are justified… the best ways to prevent and to treat it… and whether the vaccines we are being urged to take are safe and effective.
Of course, there are debates about all of those things. I mean, does anyone talk about anything else these days!?
However, the debate I’m talking about is more fundamental. It strikes at the very heart of liberty and individual freedom. But it is also centered on a fundamental aspect of human beings and our health…
And that is the fact that while we all have the same core physiology, the same organs, and the same basic bodily functions… that is where the similarities end!
The scientific truth is that we are all biologically and genetically individual. In fact, your genetics and metabolism are as unique as a fingerprint! This is why there is no One-Size-Fits-All Diet. It is why a food that is “healthy” for one person… could make YOU sick.
And of course, it also means that there is not one solution (or one shot!) that is best for everyone as we navigate the current health crisis.
In my previous articles in this newsletter, we have discussed how YOUR individual genetic blueprint makes YOU biologically unique. We covered how your genes can impact your risk for disease… how well you detoxify… and how you process alcohol, caffeine… and carbs! We also revealed dozens of simple dietary tricks you can use to “hack” your genes to optimize their expression!
Today, we continue on this theme as we discuss how YOUR unique genetic code can influence whether saturated fat is likely to increase your blood pressure… and whether the same specific genetic “deletion” may also increase your risk for COVID.
Saturated Fat & COVID Risk: The ACE Gene
Inside your body is an enzyme called Angiotensin I Converting Enzyme (or ACE for short). One of the primary functions of this enzyme is to convert a compound called angiotensin I to angiotensin II. And this is important because this process helps to regulate and optimize your blood pressure.
If this process is impaired, your blood vessels will constrict and your blood pressure will rise (hypertension).
Well, there is a particular genetic variation, known as the GG genotype, which affects this enzyme. And if you carry this gene, it could increase your risk for high blood pressure… and may even increase your risk for COVID!
The GG genotype is often referred to as the “ACE deletion”. And several studies have shown that there is an interaction between this genetic variant and saturated fat intake.
For people with the GG genotype, a diet high in saturated fat may raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease. In addition, those with the GG genotype who followed a longer-term high-fat diet (six-week study) also had impaired glucose tolerance.1
But ACE’s activities don’t end there…
New research shows having this genetic “deletion” may also increase your risk for COVID.2 This is because in order for the virus causing COVID-19 to infect a person, it must bind to ACE2 in the lungs to enter the host’s cells.3,4
Given this, it should come as no surprise then that the most common co-morbidities in COVID are hypertension (30%), diabetes (19%), and coronary heart disease (8%).5
Check your 23andMe results for rs4343 (v4, v5)
AA: Normal blood pressure response to saturated fat (ACE insertion/insertion)
AG: Normal blood pressure response to saturated fat (heterozygous – ACE deletion/insertion)
GG: A high saturated fat diet may increase blood pressure and risk of heart disease. Long-term high fat diet may also impair glucose tolerance. (ACE deletion/deletion)
Your ACE Deletion Personalized Diet
If you carry the Ace Deletion genotype and you have high blood pressure, reduce your saturated fat intake and see if this helps lower your blood pressure. Red meats with lower levels of saturated fat include sirloin tip steak, top sirloin, top round roast, bottom round roast, eye of round roast, pork tenderloin, as well as wild seafood including salmon, halibut, sardines, scallops, and shrimp.
In addition to reducing saturated fat, boost monounsaturated and omega-3 fats in your diet.
Monounsaturated fats – found in olive oil, avocado oil, avocados and nuts – have been found to dilate blood vessels and help reduce blood pressure.6 Omega-3 fats – long associated with heart health – have also been shown to have unique antiviral activity against COVID-19 (due to inhibition of ACE2). 7
Finally, pay attention to your carbohydrate and sugar intake.
While most people think of cutting salt to reduce blood pressure, sugar has a big impact! In fact, as insulin levels increase as a result of consuming sugar, your sympathetic nervous system is activated.8 When this happens, your heart rate increases and blood vessels constrict… raising your blood pressure.9
In addition to modifying your fat profile and limiting carbs and sugar, there are a number of natural ACE inhibitors that can help lower blood pressure:
Hibiscus Tea: Hibiscus sabdariffa, often found in hibiscus tea blends, has been shown to be a natural ACE inhibitor. 10 Hibiscus tea is readily available and makes a refreshing iced or hot tea beverage with a bright crimson hue.
Whey Protein: New research published in the International Journal of Molecular Science found that whey protein peptides act as natural ACE inhibitors. In fact, whey protein works comparably to ACE-inhibiting drugs, using a “molecular-docking” mechanism similar to the actions of pharmaceutical ACE-inhibitors!11
A randomized trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants taking a 27-gram whey protein supplement daily significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure over 8 weeks.12 If you have high blood pressure or the ACE deletion, consider adding a high-quality, undenatured whey protein shake to your daily diet.
Phenolic & Quinolinic Compounds: Studies show these compounds – including curcumin (from turmeric), quercetin (from onions and apples), naringenin (from citrus) and others – have natural ACE-inhibiting activity.13 Celery, garlic and eggplant were also found to have ACE-inhibiting activity.14 Among these, quercetin seems to offer the most promise. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a 162 mg/day quercetin supplement given daily for six weeks significantly decreased ambulatory blood pressure in participants with hypertension.15
Finally, if you have the GG genotype, it is especially important that you do not smoke cigarettes. While smoking is well known to increase heart disease risk (not to mention cancer), new research shows nicotine also dramatically increases the expression of ACE2.16
As you can see, to achieve your very best health, it’s important to dig deeper than the common platitudes to “just eat whole foods” or “follow the diet of our ancestors.” While this is certainly a step in the right direction for someone following a typical American diet, it misses the fine point. And it is these essential details that can make the difference between merely existing… and truly thriving!
Read Part 5: Genes & Diet – Histamines and Oxalates. Read more from Kelley Herring on our Discover Blog.
Ed Note: Need some kitchen inspiration? Grab Kelley’s free guide – Instant Pot Keto Dinners – made exclusively with Paleo-and-Keto ingredients, for quick and delicious meals that taste just as good – of not better – than your restaurant favorites. Get your free guide here.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569105/ Dietary Fat Intake Modulates Effects of a Frequent ACE Gene Variant on Glucose Tolerance with association to Type 2 Diabetes
- Gómez J, Albaiceta GM, García-Clemente M, López-Larrea C, Amado-Rodríguez L, Lopez-Alonso I, Hermida T, Enriquez AI, Herrero P, Melón S, Alvarez-Argüelles ME, Boga JA, Rojo-Alba S, Cuesta-Llavona E, Alvarez V, Lorca R, Coto E. Angiotensin-converting enzymes (ACE, ACE2) gene variants and COVID-19 outcome. Gene. 2020 Dec 15;762:145102. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2020.145102. Epub 2020 Aug 31. PMID: 32882331; PMCID: PMC7456966.
- Bakhshandeh B, Sorboni SG, Javanmard AR, et al. Variants in ACE2; potential influences on virus infection and COVID-19 severity. Infect Genet Evol. 2021;90:104773. doi:10.1016/j.meegid.2021.104773
- Hoffmann M, Kleine-Weber H, Schroeder S, Krüger N, Herrler T, Erichsen S, Schiergens TS, Herrler G, Wu NH, Nitsche A, Müller MA, Drosten C, Pöhlmann S. SARS-CoV-2 Cell Entry Depends on ACE2 and TMPRSS2 and Is Blocked by a Clinically Proven Protease Inhibitor. Cell. 2020 Apr 16;181(2):271-280.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.02.052. Epub 2020 Mar 5. PMID: 32142651; PMCID: PMC7102627.
- Schiffrin EL, Flack JM, Ito S, Muntner P, Webb RC. Hypertension and COVID-19. Am J Hypertens. 2020;33(5):373-374. doi:10.1093/ajh/hpaa057
- Alonso A, Ruiz-Gutierrez V, Martínez-González MA. Monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil and blood pressure: epidemiological, clinical and experimental evidence. Public Health Nutr. 2006 Apr;9(2):251-7. doi: 10.1079/phn2005836. PMID: 16571180.
- Goc A, Niedzwiecki A, Rath M. Polyunsaturated ω-3 fatty acids inhibit ACE2-controlled SARS-CoV-2 binding and cellular entry. Sci Rep. 2021;11(1):5207. Published 2021 Mar 4. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-84850-1
- Kanaley JA, Baynard T, Franklin RM, et al. The effects of a glucose load and sympathetic challenge on autonomic function in obese women with and without type 2 diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2007;56(6):778-785. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2007.02.001
- Chillarón JJ, Sales MP, Flores-Le-Roux JA, Murillo J, Benaiges D, Castells I, Goday A, Cano JF, Pedro-Botet J. Insulin resistance and hypertension in patients with type 1 diabetes. J Diabetes Complications. 2011 Jul-Aug;25(4):232-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2011.03.006. Epub 2011 May 20. PMID: 21601483.
- Ojeda D, Jiménez-Ferrer E, Zamilpa A, Herrera-Arellano A, Tortoriello J, Alvarez L. Inhibition of angiotensin convertin enzyme (ACE) activity by the anthocyanins delphinidin- and cyanidin-3-O-sambubiosides from Hibiscus sabdariffa. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Jan 8;127(1):7-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.09.059. Epub 2009 Oct 4. PMID: 19808084.
- Chamata Y, Watson KA, Jauregi P. Whey-Derived Peptides Interactions with ACE by Molecular Docking as a Potential Predictive Tool of Natural ACE Inhibitors. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(3):864. Published 2020 Jan 29. doi:10.3390/ijms21030864
- Fekete ÁA, Giromini C, Chatzidiakou Y, Givens DI, Lovegrove JA. Whey protein lowers blood pressure and improves endothelial function and lipid biomarkers in adults with prehypertension and mild hypertension: results from the chronic Whey2Go randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Dec;104(6):1534-1544. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.137919. Epub 2016 Oct 26. PMID: 27797709; PMCID: PMC5118733.
- Junior AG, Tolouei SEL, Dos Reis Lívero FA, Gasparotto F, Boeing T, de Souza P. Natural Agents Modulating ACE-2: A Review of Compounds with Potential against SARS-CoV-2 Infections. Curr Pharm Des. 2021;27(13):1588-1596. doi: 10.2174/1381612827666210114150607. PMID: 33459225.
- Ahmad I, Yanuar A, Mulia K, Mun’im A. Review of Angiotensin-converting Enzyme Inhibitory Assay: Rapid Method in Drug Discovery of Herbal Plants. Pharmacogn Rev. 2017;11(21):1-7. doi:10.4103/phrev.phrev_45_16
- Brüll V, Burak C, Stoffel-Wagner B, Wolffram S, Nickenig G, Müller C, Langguth P, Alteheld B, Fimmers R, Naaf S, Zimmermann BF, Stehle P, Egert S. Effects of a quercetin-rich onion skin extract on 24 h ambulatory blood pressure and endothelial function in overweight-to-obese patients with (pre-)hypertension: a randomised double-blinded placebo-controlled cross-over trial. Br J Nutr. 2015 Oct 28;114(8):1263-77. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515002950. Epub 2015 Sep 2. PMID: 26328470; PMCID: PMC4594049.
- Leung JM, Yang CX, Sin DD. COVID-19 and nicotine as a mediator of ACE-2. Eur Respir J. 2020;55(6):2001261. Published 2020 Jun 4. doi:10.1183/13993003.01261-2020