Last Updated on 3 November 2020 by Ray Plumlee
The scientific study of the interaction of nutrition and genes, especially with regard to the prevention or treatment of disease.
- What is nutrigenomics all about?
Nutrigenomics is a branch of nutritional genomics and is the study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression. It is a field of research focusing on identifying and understanding molecular-level interaction between nutrients and other dietary bio actives with the genome. Nutrigenomics studies the influence of genetic variation on nutrition by correlating gene expression or single nucleotide polymorphism with a nutrient’s absorption, metabolism, elimination or biological effects. The field aims to enhance rational means to optimize nutrition with respect to an individual’s genotype.
- Mechanism of this process:
By determining the mechanism of the effects of nutrients or the effects of a nutritional regime, nutrigenomics tries to define the causality or relationship between these specific nutrients and specific nutrient regimes (diets) on human health. Nutrigenomics has been associated with the idea of personalized nutrition based on genotype (your DNA). While there is hope that nutrigenomics will ultimately enable such personalized dietary advice, it is a science still in its infancy and its contribution to public health over the next decade is thought to be major. Whilst nutrigenomics is aimed at developing an understanding of how the whole body responds to a food via systems biology, research into the effect of a single gene/single food compound relationships is known as nutrigenetics. There are various companies around the world that provide Nutrigenomics services like 23&Me, GeneSupport, GeneticHealing.
- Purpose and aims:
Cell signaling is an important component of regulation of gene expression and metabolism, relying on both internal and external signals to ensure the body is maintaining homeostasis. Individual nutrients can each be considered signals, with the summation of their effects being the diet. The effort of nutrigenomics is to identify this “dietary signature”, or pattern of effects ranging from effects at the cellular level to entire body systems
- Application of nutrigenomics:
Aging of cells occur because of the accumulation of excess free radicals formed due to the lack of proper nutrition to the cells and external factors like UV rays, pollution, stress, food, etc. DNA analysis is instrumental in identifying the right concoction of nutrients needed to eliminate the excess free radicals present in the cell. The science of nutrigenomics studies the interaction between dietary components of food and genes. Scientific advances have now made it possible to apply nutrigenomics in the field of anti ageing and customize nutritional solutions in the form of supplements to meet the optimal nutrition required by the body to prevent aging of cells by the formation of excess free radicals.
- Obesity and personalized nutrition:
Obesity is one of the most widely studied topics in nutrigenomics. Due to genetic variations among individuals, each person could respond to diet differently. By exploring the interaction between dietary pattern and genetic factors, nutrigenomics aim to suggest prevention measures and/ or treatment to obesity via personal nutrition. There are studies suggesting genetic factors account for a fair proportion of inter-individual BMI (body mass index). Among different types of genetic variation between humans, single molecule polymorphism are suggested to be the most important marker for the study of nutrigenomics.
Nutrigenomics may be able to supplement current oncology. There is a wealth of information about processes that occur within genome maintenance that prevent cell abnormalities linked to cancer and certain nutrients that play a role as cofactors. Genome damage caused by micronutrient deficiency may be just as severe as damage owed to exposure to certain environmental carcinogens. If these micronutrients can be identified, with concrete evidence, the risk for cancer in some individuals could be significantly reduced. One such micronutrient may be folate.
- Main concerns for bringing nutrigenomics into practice:
To put nutrigenomics into practice, genetic testing is required as the test results act as the reference for diagnosis. Genetic testing has been met with many concerns surrounding ethics and regulations. These concerns inherently become a part of, if not augmented by Nutrigenomics, a field that looks to provide highly personalized information.
- Nutrigenomics and personal nutrition:
- Personal Nutrition:
Personalized nutrition is a conceptual analog to personalized medicine. While there are food products available that address requirements or preferences of specific consumer groups, these products are based on empirical consumer science rather than on nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics.
Personal preference has dictated nutritional choices throughout contemporary history. Ever since people gained access to enough food to move beyond subsistence nutrition, they have based their dietary decisions mainly on taste and general health trends. Yet a growing body of evidence shows there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. Our responses to different nutrients are unique, and by recognizing and monitoring this we can potentially extend our healthy life expectancy.
In recent decades, a sizable proportion of people in Western countries have adapted their diets to prevailing health trends. Magazine articles, blogs and social media have driven changes in food and dietary supplement habits, leading to surges in sales of products such as kale and omega-3 supplements.
Some of these sales surges are underpinned by solid science, while others are built on shakier evidence bases or food trends. What they have in common is a population-scale approach to nutrition. Foods and ingredients are either good or bad for everyone, regardless of their personal characteristics and priorities.
More recently, this black-and-white view of nutrition has been upended by research showing each of us responds differently to foods and supplements. My body processes a banana differently than your body. Consequently, while bananas are broadly seen as a healthy food, I may benefit more from eating one than you, or vice versa. This knowledge has emerged in parallel to new sources of health data and tailored dietary advice, transitioning food and nutrition from personal preference to personal health.
The neutrogenomics and personalized nutrition has built the science foundation for understanding human variability in preferences, requirements and responses to diet, and may become the future tools for consumer assessment motivated by personalized nutritional counseling for health maintenance and disease prevention.