Nutritional Genomics: Why is it important?
Nutritional Genomics focuses on the interaction between bioactive food components and the genome.
Nutrients, much like other environmental factors have been studied to interact with genetic material.
While it is true that nutrients can influence the development of certain phenotypes (physical traits), the genotype of an individual affecting the response to certain nutrients is much less talked about.
Nutritional genomics is an umbrella term covering two important fields, nutrigenomics, and nutrigenetics.
Nutrigenomics is a field of science that explores the effect of nutrients on gene expression.
Nutrigenomics studies have recently been expanded to include some nutritional factors that may protect your genome from any damage.
To sum it up, this field of study is primarily concerned with the influence of dietary components on the genome.
Nutrigenetics, on the other hand, describes how the genetic makeup of an individual impact how the body responds to nutrients in the diet.
Certain genetic markers (genetic polymorphisms) tend to interfere with the metabolization of some nutrients by changing enzymatic activities.
For example, in phenylketonuria, a change in the PAH gene renders the individual unable to breakdown phenylalanine.
This condition can be reasonably well-managed with a phenylalanine-free diet.
Studying this gene-diet interaction enables us to understand why some individuals respond differently than others to the exact same nutrients, thus, allowing us to personalize our diets based on genetic makeup.
Nutrigenomics in Dietetic Practice
Ever since the sequencing of the human genome, it’s been adequately clear that we don’t all respond the same way to the same dietary interventions.
In fact, the ever so popular keto diet, which seems to be the talk of diet-town, may not be suitable for everybody.
A few studies have reported that keto diet affects cholesterol levels and sometimes may lead to high LDL cholesterol.
Such people may benefit from increasing complex carbs and reducing fat in their diet.
Since genetics can account for a lot of these differences, we can now skip some of the trial-and-error and zero in on the best approach for each unique individual based on their DNA.
Traditionally, genetic testing for the purpose of personalized diet/nutrition advice was reserved for specific medical, dietary, or allergy issues.
But today, personalized nutrition recommendations based on affordable, self-administered tests are accessible at relatively low costs.
Nutritional genomics studies have been propelled forward, thanks to biotechnological advances that allow the monitoring of vital biomarkers in almost real-time!
Personalized diets can end the frustration among wellness-seekers who commit to difficult lifestyle changes such as omitting dairy, coffee, or gluten.
More often than not, such drastic measures, end up causing more harm than good for their bodies.
A US-based personalized nutrition company published peer-reviewed paper aggregating data from more than 1,000 consumers.
According to the results, personalized nutrition recommendations optimized key markers of health, including blood sugar, cholesterol, and inflammation.
Though it’s early days in personal nutrition research, this is fast-moving science that is developing and improving in real-time.