Nutritional Genomics: Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics
Have you ever asked or been asked these questions, and have been uncertain as to the answer?
Why are some people more susceptible to diabetes or obesity?
Why do certain foods help some people more effectively than others?
Why do nutritional requirements vary from person to person?
The answer lies in our genes. Genomic analysis unlocks an individual’s unique DNA, allowing clinicians to provide nutritional advice for disease prevention and intervention, tailored to each patient’s unique biochemistry. Nutritional genomics researches the interaction between food and our genes, and is divided into two areas—nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics.
Nutrigenetics analyzes how genes influence the ability to process specific nutrients in our food. Nutrigenetics is essential to knowing what each person’s unique nutrient requirements are. Without this information, clinicians are left guessing.
For example: Nutrigenetics can reveal why some people thrive on plant-based diets, while others don’t. One answer lies in omega 3 fatty acid metabolism.
EPA and DHA are key omega 3 fatty acids for fighting inflammation and improving brain development. The FADS1 gene controls whether a person can convert plant-based omega 3 fatty acids into EPA and DHA. A SNP on the FADS1 gene impairs activity of the enzyme, resulting in reduced production of EPA and DHA. For a person that relies primarily on plant based omega-3 sources, there is a risk of deficiency in these key nutrients. Recent studies have shown that the frequency of this SNP in humans has changed over time. In agrarian societies that relied primarily on plants for food, the gene SNP has been found to be less prevalent than in societies where diets were rich in animal sources that directly supplied EPA.
Nutrigenomics analyses the influence of food on our genes. It can reveal key dispositions, for example, why carbohydrates make certain people more susceptible to diabetes than others.
All components of food, including carbohydrates, interact with our genes. The connection starts the moment nutrients enter our system. They require precise processing in order for all aspects of our bodies to work correctly. There are many different genes involved in regulating carbohydrate processing, insulin secretion and glucose metabolism. People with multiple SNPs in these genes cannot efficiently manage large amounts of carbohydrates and sugar. Their system becomes overwhelmed and they can develop various forms of diabetes.
Another food-gene influencer are non-nutrient food components, called bioactives. Some of the most commonly known bioactives are flavones, including the resveratrol found in grapes and red wine. Resveratrol interacts with the Nrf2 gene, which controls our built-in antioxidant system. A SNP on the Nrf2 gene can make the Nrf2 enzyme less effective in producing an antioxidant response. A person with a SNP on the Nrf2 gene may need higher amounts of resveratrol to stay healthy.
Genomic testing can identify the personalized types and amounts of vitamins, minerals and bioactive compounds necessary to support natural defense systems, prevent disease, improve existing conditions, and optimize health for as long as possible.
The Ultimate Wellness test includes comprehensive nutrigenetic and nutrigenomic evaluations with clinically-informed action steps.
Learn more about using genomics to create personalized nutrition plans in our Genomic Medicine Certification Program.