Did you know there is a new field of study, laser-focused on how nutrition can turn genes on or off?  Nutrigenomics. It is the study of how what you EAT can turn your genes on ….or OFF. This could mean a different life journey – an amazing, healthy and happy life, one without crippling diseases.

In this article, I will discuss what nutrigenomics is and its potential benefits.

What Is Nutrigenomics?

Food is medicine. Nutrigenomics is simply the next level.

The idea behind genomics, or nutrigenomics, is that our food can influence our genes and our genes react differently to different nutrients. This means that not all of us react the same to the same foods. It’s not only fascinating but a true game-changer when it comes to the field of health and medicine.

Nutrigenomics studies how our food can affect our genes and as a result, our health.

The main principles of nutrigenomics include:

  • Nutrition and diet can be a serious risk factor for a number of diseases and health issues
  • Dietary chemicals can have the ability to change gene activity or gene structure
  • One’s individual genetic makeup can determine how their diet creates health or illness
  • Certain genes that are regulated by nutrition can lead to the onset or progress of some chronic diseases
  • A personalized approach to diet and nutrition is essential in preventing, managing, and treating chronic diseases

Examples of Nutrigenomics

If you think about it, this concept is not completely surprising.

You probably know both people who were born lactose intolerant and people who have no issues with cow’s milk. Lactose intolerance can be obvious in early life because of a mutation of the LCT gene. On the other hand, there are also people who develop lactose intolerance as teenagers or adults because of a gradually decreasing LCT gene activity. There are also people whose LCT genes continue to function throughout their lives and can drink milk happily.


Another fascinating example is a component called sulforaphane found in vegetables such as broccoli and brussel sprouts. Sulforaphane can naturally inhibit the molecular modification of histone (proteins bound to your DNA). They can possibly turn cancer genes off and prevent specific forms of cancer. Fascinating! On the other hand, people with certain autoimmune conditions, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have to be careful with nightshades, including broccoli.

The field of nutrigenomics interesting with endless possibilities to help people with all kinds of bodies, genes, tastebuds and health conditions. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

Nutrigenomics, Nutrigenetics and Epigenetics – The Connection and the Difference

Nutrigenomics is not the only field concerned with our genes and health, but are closely related to two other captivating fields, nutrigenetics and epigenetics.

Nutrigenomics is an ‘outside in’ approach aiming to understand how nutrients affect our genes.

Nutrigenetics is an ‘inside out’approach that examines how variation of our genes affects out health and nutrition.

Epigenetics studies how our environment affects our genes along with exercise and nutrition. (9, 10, 11, 12, 13)

These three fields one by one and combined together can potentially change the course of our health and lives. Let’s learn about the benefits of nutrigenomics.

3 Benefits of Nutrigenomics

No More “One Size Fits All” Diets

Everyone wants that one magic answer to health and wellness that will work for all. The government has created its guidelines based on large-scale studies and statistics shuffling the outliers out. An endless number of diets and strategies are promising you that their approach is the one for you and everybody else.

We are all different with different needs. Nutrigenomics can allow us to analyze our genes and understand other factors, including diet, lifestyle and environment, to create individualized nutrition plans for your body and health.

More Effective Prescription Medications

Just like food, different bodies react differently to different medications. While pharmaceutical studies and federal regulations aim to create safety around prescriptions drugs, it is impossible to know potential adverse drug reactions for each patient without knowing all factors, including their genes.

Nutrigenomics can help doctors to understand their patients’   better to determine the right medication and right supplement at the right dose without the ‘wait and see’ experimentation period. (14)

Obesity Prevention

Obesity is a serious problem across the globe. There are various guidelines and advice out there to help prevention and reversal of obesity, but again, there is no one size fits all. Generic diets are much less effective than personalized plans.

There are 24 known variants in 19 genes that affect one metabolism, their risk of becoming overweight or obese, and their ability to lose weight effectively. Understanding someone’s genetics and body can help create a dietary and exercise plan to effectively help weight loss and weight maintenance. (15)

Considerations

Nutrigenomics sounds like the best thing that has happened in the field of health and medicine. There are a few things to remember.

  • Nutrigenomics is still a new and emerging field. There is still a lot to learn and new research to come. There is more research and testing required. While it can help to prevent and treating many diseases, it is not a cure-all fix for all health problems.
  • Nutrigenomics will require an integrated approach between dietitians, nutritional, general practitioners, specialists and other health practitioners.
  • Though there are several companies that offer nutrigenomics profile DNA testing, there aren’t any physicians that specifically endorse and of these programs because of the complexities of interpreting results. The US Government Accountability Office has even questioned the scientific credibility of these tests in 2006. (16)

There is also a debate whether insurance companies should cover nutrigenomics testing or should it be an out-of-pocket expense.

Conclusion

Nutrigenomics is an exciting, emerging and fascinating field that holds the promise to understand how our food can affect our genes. Even more-so, how we may be able to treat or even prevent disease through a well-designed, individualized plan created with nutrigenomics testing. It is still a new field that requires lots more research, testing and other considerations before it can turn common and widespread. The future is promising and I am excited to share more with you as we learn more.

Do you find nutrigenomics as fascinating as I do? Did you find this article helpful? Share your questions and opinion below, I would love to hear from you and connect with you.

References:

  1. https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/global-initiative-nutritional-genomics/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4822264
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2137135/
  4. https://www.precisionnutrition.com/nutrigenomics-research
  5. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lactose-intolerance#genes
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/014067369392876U
  7. https://heart.bmj.com/content/72/3/269.short
  8. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/hup.444
  9. http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/8/e1701143.full
  10. http://www.nutrigenetics.net/
  11. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213879X16000183
  12. https://vitagene.com/genetics/what-nutrigenetics-and-nutrigenomics/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3121546/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9555760/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17945020/
  16. https://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06977t.pdf