Advancements in nutrition science have the potential to lead us into an era of completely personalised diets.
Nutritional genomics, the study of how food and genes interact, is a critical piece of this puzzle. One of the ultimate outcomes of this science is the ability to personalise and tailor health and nutrition advice to the individual.
Such diets will take into account how you process specific vitamins, minerals and nutrients, any food intolerances you may have, and how your body stores fat and builds muscle. The resulting advice and recommendations will make it easier to identify a sustainable healthy eating plan, make weight management achievable and be tailored to reduce disease risk.
The question being asked, is all this really possible?
This article series will explore the science and evidence behind nutritional genomics. Try to answer a few questions surrounding the legitimacy of DNA tests and compare some DNA tests available in Australia.
What Is Nutrigenomics
The key understanding individual nutrition needs lies within two specific areas of nutrition science.
One, which won’t be covered in this article is the gut microbiome; the study of the bacterial composition within your digestive system.
The other is nutritional genomics.
With nutrigenomics, scientists are trying to unravel the complex relationship between the food we eat and our genetic makeup.
Like height, hair colour and shoe size, our genetics can also determine how we process certain vitamins, how we metabolise fat, protein and carbohydrates and even if we prefer sweet over salty foods. All of this impacts our mental and physical responses to food and ultimately our food choices. And of course, what we end up eating can determine our body weight, health status and risk of disease.
Not only can our genes influence what we choose to eat, but what we choose to eat can influence our genes.
Diet and lifestyle can act as a catalyst to turn on, or off, certain genes. Somewhat like a light switch dimmer turning the lights up or down. This is called gene expression. A slightly confusing concept, but the emphasis here is the very real and important interaction between dietary choices and our genes.
In 2003 The Human Genome Project, the first mapping of the entire human genome, was completed. Since then, genetic science has been continually progressing. Hundreds of nutritional genomics research studies have been conducted to determine which genes are associated with nutrient metabolism and disease risk.
Nutritional genomics is however a relatively new stream of science. It’s incredibly complex, because your environment (diet and lifestyle) can affect gene expression (whether a gene is turned on or off) and vice versa. This makes pinpointing a cause (gene variation) and effect (health outcome) relationship quite difficult.