The study found that elite endurance athletes were more likely to have variations of the NRF2 gene than elite sprinters. Non-elite endurance athletes were also more likely to have the genetic variations compared to sprinters, although the difference was not as pronounced.
The study shows an association between the gene variation and endurance, but does not establish a cause-effect relationship. Future studies are needed to unravel exactly what role the gene plays in athletic performance. The study is part of a larger body of research that is exploring the human genome and which aims to understand the genetic underpinnings of athletic performance.
Although the human genome is relatively uniform, there are variations among individuals. The researchers investigated the NRF2 gene because previous studies have shown that it may play a role in endurance performance because it:
helps produce new mitochondria, a key cellular structure that produces energy
reduces the harmful effects of oxidation and inflammation, which increase during exercise
“These findings suggest that harboring this specific genotype might increase the probability of being an endurance athlete,” said one of the authors, Nir Eynon of Wingate Institute in Israel. The study, “Interaction between SNPs in the NRF2 gene and elite endurance performance,” was carried out by Dr. Eynon, Alberto Jorge Alves, Moran Sagiv, Chen Yamin, Prof. Michael Sagiv and Dr. Yoav Meckel. All are at the Wingate Institute except for Alberto Alves, who is with the University of Porto in Portugal. The American Physiological Society (www.the-APS.org) published the study.
via Study Finds Variations In One Gene May Be Associated With Endurance Running.