We all know the importance of food and its impact on our health. Nutrigenomics is the scientific vehicle that not only informs that nutrition influences health, but that food may also have an influence on the expression of our genetic makeup. What this means is that nutrigenomics will take out the guesswork out of nutrition by achieving optimal health through the medium of personalized genetic profiles. Currently, general recommendations for food are given for optimal health. But with breakthroughs of Nutrigenomics, “across the board recommendations” will soon become obsolete. Nutrigenomics has the potential to replace traditional methods for food and nutrition assessment for people’s health.
What is Nutrigenomics?

Nutrigenomics is an emerging science that explores the ways nutrition impacts health by influencing genes. It investigates the effect of nutrition upon health at the molecular level and explores the manner in which nutritional components directly or indirectly affect the human genome by changing an individual’s genetic structure or altering the expression of genes. Scientists believe that by understanding nutrition’s effect upon the human genome, diet influenced diseases can be prevented. The Human Genome Sequencing Consortium led in the U.S. by the National Human Genome Research Institute and the Department of Energy acknowledged the completion of the Human genome project for many years. The consortium sequenced 3 billion DNA letters in the Human genome. This undertaking advances the possibility of ventures such as this new field of Nutrigenomics. This new field creates exciting possibilities for dietitians.

Nutrigenomics will pave the way in allowing individuals to take control of their health by getting their diets tailored according to their genetic makeup to reduce risks of developing diet related diseases or to actually treat existing conditions. We are aware that diet is responsible and is a factor in a wide variety of diseases including diabetes, cancer, heart disease and birth defects. To date, the effect of diet upon disease development or the prevention or minimization of the cause of the disease has not been well understood. Also, the degree to which individual’s genetic makeup contributes to their pre-disposition to certain disease conditions is not yet fully appreciated or understood.

The Human Genome Project

Information gathered from the Human genome Project has given many dimensions upon these connections and made it clear that diet does not affect individuals equally with respect to disease prevention or development. We learn that a diet that is healthy for one individual may not be healthy for another. Nutrigenomics investigates these differences and explores the genetic variations among individuals that influence how nutrition influences health. Nutrigenomics makes us aware that the “one-size-fits all” approach to nutrition is questionable and gives a new pattern in thinking about how some minority populations have increased risks of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and some cancers. In this regard, Nutrigenomics will shed some light why minority populations respond differently to nutrition. The use of this science can give in-depth answers using diet-influenced conditions using the ways nutrition can be targeted to specific genotypes and their unique reactions to dietary reactions.

Researchers found that some “individuals with a particular gene variant show less increase in cholesterol and low density Lipoprotein {LDL} in response to a diet rich in eggs.” Their theory suggested that the variant gene changes the way cholesterol is absorbed in the intestines. Other researchers revealed that genetic variation results in an increase in homo-cysteine levels and suggested that genetic testing for this variant will help individuals determine their risk for cardiovascular disease and the use of nutrition can be the source to determine its origin and treatment.

A team of human nutrition researchers working for the Center on Aging at Tufts University, in Boston studied 40 genes known to influence cardiovascular health. This team led by Jose M. Ordovas, PhD theorizes that genetic testing early in life will allow individuals to get an early leap into eating right to prevent disease and to avoid eating foods that increase risks. Other researchers at the University studied the role of Folate and came to the conclusion that certain individuals may require more Folate than others to protect them against Colon Cancer. Researchers are looking at a number of diseases including breast cancer, autism and schizophrenia using genomic information to single out risk factors and preventions.

Genomic Information Role

As you can see, it is evident that Genomic information will be used to understand individual differences in diet, gene interactions and the mechanism by which they lead to the development or suppression of disease in some individuals. Genetic research is leading the way to the creation of more precise and widespread testing. It has opened the door for scientists and healthcare providers to determine individual’s precise nutritional needs and to develop strategies to effectively use food to eradicate disease. You have heard, “You are What You Eat.” In a few short years, many researchers will be able to give doctors information that only requires patient to undergo a battery of genetic tests. Testing may be in the form of a blood sample that will be analyzed to give their unique pre-disposition to disease. When these genetic profiles become available, individualized eating plans can be developed.

Once these genetic profiles are developed, the statement “Food is Medicine, Medicine-Food” is truly actualized. Nutritional supplements development can address the particular needs of groups and sub-groups. Nutrigenomics is already here as scientists could easily develop a test for lactose intolerance. They have been testing for phenylketonuria (PKU) for many years says Jim Kaput, PhD, president C50 of Nutragenomics.

In the case of lactose Intolerance, scientists feel that they could show the individuals with the variant gene, how to alter the link between diet and health. For example lactose intolerant individuals could be told to alter intake of specific foods. However, enough data are not currently available to tell individuals exactly “what to eat to prevent complex diseases such as obesity, diabetes or chronic disease.”

What are your thoughts? Do you think this emerging science – Nutrigenomics will lead you on the path to a healthy life once it’s more fully understood.

Author's Bio: 

I believe that knowledge can be empowering and the more we understand our bodies and the mechanisms that cause illness, the more committed we become to getting better. Through my Hope Nutritional Services, I am devoted to educating you about your body, how it works and how to nourish, heal and nurture it.

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