Research proves that poor eating habits could affect your heart and alter how genes express themselves (including genes related to immunity), and the effects can linger really long even after dietary habits are improved. This alteration in gene expression – epigenetics – ultimately increases the risk of cardiovascular disorders than it would have been if no unhealthy foods were consumed in the first place, added the research. Erik van Kampen, a researcher from Leiden University, Netherlands, who was involved in the study hopes that this demonstrates the high importance of diet-induced changes in the epigenome, and further encourages research into the interaction among dietary patterns, DNA-methylation and diseases. Unhealthy lifestyle could affect the way in which the immune system operates even post the successful treatment of atherosclerosis (where plaque builds up within the arteries limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the many organs and parts of body.

To conduct the study, the scientists used two groups of mice that had an altered gene making them more receptive to developing atherosclerosis and high blood cholesterol. These mice were either fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet or a normal diet.

The study was published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.