Nutrigenomics - What Is It, And How It Can Help You Live Longer And Healthier

Damir Regoc

Food And Genes Interaction - Eating In Sync With One's Genes 

Whoever’s been scrolling through biohacking forums and Facebook groups must’ve encountered the term “nutrigenomics”. So, what is nutrigenomics, other than a cool word that makes one sound smart when saying it? 

The search for knowledge regarding healthy food has increased in the last decades among the world population, researchers, nutritionists, and health professionals. Since ancient times, humans have known that environment and food can interfere with an individual's health condition, and have used food and plants as medicines. With the advance in science, especially after the conclusion of the Human Genome Project (HGP), scientists started questioning if the interaction between genes and food bioactive compounds could positively or negatively influence an individual's health.

The Relationship Between The Human Genome, Human Nutrition, And Health

Nutritional genomics, also known as nutrigenomics, is a science studying the relationship between the human genome, human nutrition, and health. Scientists in the field are working to develop an understanding of how the whole body responds to food via systems biology, as well as single gene/single food compound relationships. 

The term "nutritional genomics" is an umbrella term that includes several subcategories, such as nutrigenetics, nutrigenomics, and nutritional epigenetics. Each of these subcategories defines some facet of how genes react to nutrients and describe specific phenotypes. There are several applications for nutritional genomics. For example how much nutritional intervention and therapy can successfully be used for disease prevention and treatment.

One-Size-Fits-All Diets Do Not Work

Why have public health efforts to prevent obesity and metabolic diseases been somewhat unsuccessful? It's likely because making one-size-fits-all nutritional strategies often miss the mark. It's clear that not all people respond to diet equally, and it's becoming more and more clear that, as nutrition science evolves, nutrition professionals need to consider how genes interact with an individual's diet and physical activity patterns.

Nutrigenomics may have the potential to prevent and treat diet-related chronic diseases and conditions in a way that nutrition recommendations based on epidemiologic research and physiology can't by using genetics and molecular biology to predict individual risks, explain why those risks are presently based on genotype, and allow personalization of nutrition therapy.

Potential Of Nutrigenomics

Such is the hypothetical potential for nutrigenomics to change healthcare, that a 2003 UK Department of Health whitepaper forecast that with increased knowledge of genetics, “treatment, lifestyle advice, and monitoring aimed at disease prevention could then be tailored appropriately to suit each individual”. The establishment of pan-national organizations such as the European Nutrigenomics Organisation (NUGO) and the International Society for Nutrigenomics & Nutrigenetics have further served to increase the infrastructure and international collaboration around nutrigenomics research. Given the increasing global burden of nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases, nutrigenomics could help to develop more sustainable approaches to encouraging dietary change at a population level, although a lack of human experimental trials remains a barrier to translating research into policy and practice.

Researchers acknowledge that only a part of the population will react positively to specific nutritional interventions, while others will be less responsive. Others could even have adverse effects.

How Does It All Work?

Variants on your genes are related to metabolism, energy expenditure, and energy balance. They impact weight management and body composition. Your gene variants reveal how your body metabolizes fat and protein. With guidance from a dietitian, you can use that knowledge to choose an eating plan that works well with your genetic makeup.

The results from nutrigenomic testing can help inform your everyday decisions. For example, your genetic variants may signal that you’re more likely to:

  • Develop high blood pressure or high bad cholesterol. Knowing this, you can take steps to prevent these conditions from occurring. For example, you can reduce your sodium or saturated fat consumption.
  • Crave sweets. You can create a plan to counter your cravings and avoid eating sugar. The results may prevent you from developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • Get jitters and panic attacks when you drink coffee. This could explain why you feel shaky after having coffee! You may feel inspired to stop drinking it.
  • Lose weight on a high-protein diet. You can confidently stick to an eating plan knowing how your body responds to macronutrients like carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
  • Burn more fat with strength training or cardio. This can help you to find your most efficient system for fat burning.

What Can We Expect From Nutrigenomics In The Future?

Personalized nutrition — recommendations based on your genetics, preferences, and predispositions — may well replace one-size-fits-all advice in the future. As we learn more about their genetic makeup, nutrigenomics could become a routine part of making dietary plans.

Genetic tendencies are predictions, not guarantees. And nutrigenomics can’t eliminate all of the trial-and-error when it comes to diet, supplements, and workout routines. But nutrigenomics does give us a more focused approach to figuring out what steps we can take to feel our best.

Beauty & the Broth

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