Nutrigenomics

An emerging field of nutritional research dubbed “nutrigenomics” focuses on identifying and understanding molecular-level interaction between nutrients and other dietary bioadditives with the human genome during transcription, translation and expression (the processes by which proteins encoded by the genome are produced and, for better or for worse, do their thing).

According to the American Dietetic Association, advances in biological sciences, especially in the sequencing of the human genome and human genetics, will change the practice of dietetics forever, just as it is currently changing medical practice. Tailoring nutrition advice to one’s genotype will become increasingly possible as the discovery of genes and mutations unfolds.

“Individuals who share certain genetic determinants will be identified as groups at risk that need new strategies for prevention and intervention,” explains registered dietician Judith Gilbride, the ADA’s liaison to the Department of Energy’s Human Genome Project. “This century will show us how diet influences gene expression. With nine genes identified for diabetes mellitus, we will have to determine the effective course of medical nutrition therapy.”

Genetic Testing for Wellness

Right now, genetic testing as it relates to personal nutrition is most helpful in the area of correcting genetic weaknesses with diet, for instance by supplying more of a given cofactor required by a genetically impaired enzyme (an enzyme deficient in that cofactor) to do its job. The application of genetic testing to examine individual responses to macro- and micronutrients is still in its infancy, but some futurists predict a day when gene-based diets define how foods are produced and marketed.

Rita Wellens, Ph.D., a medical-writing consultant who publishes on the latest developments in preventative medicine, public health and medical technologies, theorizes that in the near future “consumers will slide in their nutrigenomic card at any supermarket entrance to obtain a personalized list with recommended amounts, easy recipes and special discounts for certain foods – those that they ideally “should” consume to meet their genetically prescribed nutritional needs.” In other words, she explains, when following these customized dietary guidelines, “an individual will be able to control at least one of the main modifiable risk factors that aid in preventing a wide range of disease.”

 

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