What is it? – Nutrigenomics is certainly the new buzz word but what exactly is it?
Genetics is the study of genes which determine how similar or different we are from each other. Nutrigenomics simply combines the study of nutrition and genetics. There are some genetic markers you just can’t change e.g. genetically predisposed to be tall or have big ears! Through genetic testing however, we can see how certain genes can affect the rate of absorption, distribution, metabolism or excretion of almost everything we consume. Our tiny genetic differences can result in extreme variability in how we respond to nutrient intake. We can influence all of this.
What is an example of genes influencing nutrient intake? –
A great example to show how our genes can determine our response to certain foods is lactose intolerance. People are lactose intolerant because the gene responsible for making the necessary enzyme is “switched off” leaving their bodies unable to produce it. As a result, these people react badly to consuming dairy products.
Why is it so exciting? –
Nutrigenomics gives us the ability to provide individual personalised diet plans and supplement protocols for clients. It takes the guess work out of dietary and supplement advice.
We all know that we are different. Some people gain weight just by looking at a cake and some people can eat whatever they want and never put on a pound. Some people don’t suffer from hangovers and others can suffer for days afterwards. This is because we are all different. What makes us different – our genes. The DNA sequence of the human genome varies by only 0.1% between individuals but this is enough to make a huge difference. These variations are called polymorphisms. The most common type of variation is called a SNP (commonly known as a SNiP). Differences in people’s responses to foods are often due to SNiPs which change the way a protein interacts with metabolites in the body.
Image source: Netherlands Nutrigenomics Centre (NNC)
What can we do with this information? –
The eventual goal is to provide genome-based nutritional diets and supplement protocols to prevent health conditions such as asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular conditions and certain cancers.
Who can have this test? –
Certain tests are available to buy over the counter. The results do however need careful interpretation and are too complicated for an untrained person to decipher. It is more advisable to do a test through a health care professional and have them interpret the results for you. You can then be given details of what to do with these results. What should you be eating, what shouldn’t you be eating, what are you deficient in, are you detoxifying properly, what supplements should you be taking etc.
What is the future of Nutrigenomics? –
Nutrigenomics is here with us now! How amazing is it to have a diet plan and supplement protocol designed specifically for you and you alone based on your own unique genetic profile? As we find out more and more about nutrigenomics, genetic profiling and nutritional prescriptions will become commonplace.
We also know that obtaining a personalized dietary regime encourages people to become more health conscious. The fact that they have paid for this means that they are also more likely to follow the advice!
Discovering genetic susceptibilities can be a strong motivator for making dietary and lifestyle changes and personal advice on macro and micro nutrient intake will be better understood and more accurate. There is of course the added benefit of unnecessary supplements being avoided.
Overall, Nutrigenomics is the most exciting thing to come to the world of nutrition for a long time. We just need to make sure that its kept in the hands of health professionals.
Shona Wilkinson is a fully qualified nutritional therapist and senior manager. She regularly delivers talks and seminars to private companies and has specific expertise in training nutritionists, product buying and formulation, writing of articles and curriculum courses and industry claims compliance. She runs her own clinic as well as specialising in media and supplementation.
To contact Shona Wilkinson please get in touch with Gillian Waddell at Fuel PR (Gillian@fuelrefuel.com)