Ashkenazi Jews are three to five times more likely than other populations to develop Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
“Ashkenaz” in Hebrew refers to Germany, and Ashkenazi Jews are those who originated in Eastern Europe.
Approximately 80% of modern Jews have Ashkenazi ancestry, according to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
One study found that all of the Ashkenazi Jews alive today can trace their roots to a group of about 330 people who lived 600 to 800 years ago. The same study showed that two-fifths of Ashkenazi Jews descended from four women.
Could this explain why Ashkenazi Jews are significantly more likely to develop IBD?
In the largest study to date, Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers compared almost 2,000 Ashkenazi Jews with Crohn’s disease to another 4,500 Ashkenazi Jews without the disease. “This is the first study to discover the unique risk factors of Crohn’s disease in the Ashkenazi Jewish population,” study leader Professor Inga Peter PhD an associate professor of genetics and genomic sciences, said in a Mount Sinai news release.
According to a Public Library of Science genetics study, five additional genetic variants were discovered, bringing the total to 71 genetic variants that increase the risk of Crohn’s disease in individuals of European ancestry.
Now, a little Genetics 101
What are Genes?
Genes are the fundamental units of heredity—they provide the instruction for a particular trait such as hair or eye color. Genes are made up of a chemical called deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. Each gene contains the information needed for making a specific protein, and each protein has a particular function in the body, such as manufacturing enzymes for biochemical processes.
What are Chromosomes?
Chromosomes are the structures in which genes are packaged. Chromosomes come in pairs, and there can be hundreds and even thousands of genes on one chromosome. Every cell has a total of 46 chromosomes, each with 23 pairs. Half of your chromosomes come from your mother and other half from your father. The first 22 pairs are referred to as autosomes because they are the same between males and females, but the 23rd and final pair are called sex chromosomes because these determine our biological sex. Males have an X and a Y chromosome while females have two X chromosomes.
The findings are from a multicenter study and were reported by Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, the health and science editor at the Jerusalem Post. Previous studies had identified 71 genetic variants of Crohn’s disease risk in people, especially Jews of central and eastern European ancestry. Dr. Peter Ph.D. led the international research team to search for unique genetic risk factors in Ashkenazi Jews. Her team conducted a two-step genome-wide association study comparing 1,878 Ashkenazi Jews with Crohn’s disease to 4,469 Ashkenazi Jews without the disease, using DNA samples to evaluate their genetic make-up. The research team found 12 of the known risk variants but also discovered five new genetic risk regions on chromosomes (5q21.1, 2p15, 8q21.11, 10q26.3 and 11q12.1).
Other studies have suggested that one or more genes on chromosome 5q21 are responsible for the inheritance of familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Gardner’s syndrome (GS), and contribute to tumor development in patients with noninherited forms of colorectal cancer. Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is an inherited disorder characterized by cancer of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. Gardner syndrome is a form of familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) that is characterized by multiple colorectal polyps and various types of tumors , both benign (noncancerous) and malignant (cancerous). People affected by Gardner syndrome have a high risk of developing colorectal cancer at an early age.
And it’s not just Crohn’s Disease. According to a 2009 study at the University at Birmingham United Kingdom, Ulcerative Colitis is three to five times more common in Jews than in non-Jews living in Western Countries.
These discoveries further exemplifies the importance of lifestyle and dietary habits. Both are proven to decrease the risk of a Crohn’s Disease diagnosis and would likely decrease the chances of FAP and GS. For those that are diagnosed or experience symptoms, lifestyle and dietary habits have been shown to reverse symptoms.
Genes Load The Gun – Diet and Lifestyle Pull The Trigger
We spent hundreds of hours researching the best methods to Integratively and holistically help Crohn’s Disease. These strategies and techniques have helped some reverse symptoms, and others avoid surgery. Some believe they are cured, and now live a life free from dis-ease. We published these strategies, techniques, health journeys, and stories in The Crohn’s And Colitis Summit and One Great Gut Collection, both created and hosted by our founder Joel Sprechman. The practitioners and service providers listed in the One Great Gut Network are another resource to help you Thrive with Crohn’s Disease, while also helping others with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. We hope these resources help you or your loved ones.
So that we can continue to fulfill our commitment and mission, please consider donating today. Your contribution will help those with IBD, Crohn’s, and Colitis Thrive. In Judaism, giving to a charitable organization is known as tzedakah. Please consider this mitzvah, so that we can help other’s Thrive with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Interesting note: Rabbi Zusche Greenberg says that Nine out of ten Jews will tell you that mitzvah means doing a good deed. In reality, there is much more to the word. The simple translation of mitzvah is commandment, but some teachings find a deeper meaning in the word. Mitzvah comes from the root word tzavta, which means connection. It’s almost as if each mitzvah is a phone number with a direct dial to G‑d. So your donation is a direct connection to God, for you, for us, and most importantly for those we serve and help.
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- PLOS Genetic – A Genome-Wide Scan of Ashkenazi Jewish Crohn’s Disease Suggests Novel Susceptibility Loci
- Science – Mutations of chromosome 5q21 genes in FAP and colorectal cancer patients
- Gastroenterology – Geographic origins of Jewish patients with inflammatory bowel disease
- Journal of Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases – Official Journal of the Romanian Societies of Gastroenterology – Jews and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Ahmed M. El-Tawil Department of Surgery, University Hospital of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom (Direct PDF)
- The Norton & Elaine Sarnoff Center for Jewish Genetics – Genetics 101
- Forward – Could Kashrut be partly to blame for Crohn’s Disease
- Gene tests show that two fifths of Ashkenazi Jews are descended from four women
- Nature Communications – Sequencing an Ashkenazi reference panel supports population-targeted personal genomics and illuminates Jewish and European origins
- Los Angeles Times – DNA ties Ashkenazi Jews to group of just 330 people from Middle Ages
- A mitzvah is not just a good deed – Rabbi Zushe Greenberg