Nutrigenomics is a relatively new field of research in which genetics and nutrition come together. These merging disciplines optimize the efficacy of diets relating them to disease and illness, attempting to scientifically predict how certain genotypes will respond to certain diets. The science behind such tests is indeed complex as it requires understanding the body’s response to certain foods and eating regimes on the level of an individual’s genes.
Nutrigenomics goes beyond traditional “one-type-suits-all” diets and the many generalized assumptions. This scientific discipline seeks to tailor any eating regime to the individual in question. It is based on the scientifically established premise that each person’s genes make him or her unique. Nutrigenomics has explained the different responses to dieting as well as the variations in results between people on the same dietary plan/ eating regime. Nutrigenomics seeks to create a diet that is closely tailored to the needs of that individual; a diet to which they are more likely to respond positively. Nutrigenomics must distinguish those people who will react positively on one type of diet and those who will not.
Diet and health are intrinsically related and nutrigenomics sets out to make this a fundamental notion one that will hopefully become widespread and an essential tool aimed at helping to optimize health and increasing longevity. Intake of the same nutrient in different individuals will produce different effects as the concentrations, rates of absorption; metabolism and the rate at which the nutrient in question is broken down, used or excreted will vary. DNA testing for weight loss is now offered by some leading DNA testing companies such as http://www.gtldna.com.au.
The dieting challenge
Have you ever wondered why people on the same diet achieve such different results? When the first studies were carried out, spurred by these variations between people on the same diet, scientists could only turn their glance towards genetics as the most likely culprit. They have in fact, proved that our genes play a vital role in how much weight we lose or even whether we lose any weight in the first place.
Granted, when undertaking a study that is to have reliability and validity scientists grouped participants into groups; age, gender and any pre-existing medical conditions were taken into consideration and people grouped according to certain criteria and demographics.
One of the main areas and focus of many studies within the field of nutrigenomics is cancer. The shift is not now towards this potentially lucrative market (if ever a cure is discovered), ditching other more costly and less lucrative drug development projects (most research for new antibiotics has come to a standstill as the mutation rate of bacteria and the ten year patent pharmaceutical companies have on new drugs developed have made this area unprofitable in light of other treatments for other diseases). One of the highly contended foods is red meat – just how healthy or unhealthy is this food and how does it antagonize our genes? The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has linked cancer of the colon and rectum to red meat consumption, showing that consumption is directly proportional to risk; people who consume 100 grams of unprocessed meat per day had an elevated risk of 15%- 20%. Processed meats posed even higher risks with just 50 grams of processed meat resulting in the same risk factor as unprocessed meats. But it is not only the meat itself that may affect our chances of developing cancer but also the way it is cooked. Meats cooked for longer periods of time and above 300 F are known to have higher levels of cancer causing Heterocyclic amines and mutagenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (mutagenic simply refers to chemicals that are able to cause mutations in our DNA). Barbecuing which often causes charring is the worst cooking method as it increases dramatically the levels of mutagenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Certain fruits like tomatoes have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer; they contain lycopene in abundance, the antioxidant phytochemical that helps also prevent heart disease. They have also found that apples contain a chemical that can fight Crohn’s disease, a disease which targets the digestive lining causing anything from diarrhea to malnutrition. Variations in absorption or excretion of phytochemicals influence the extent to which nutrients derived from plants impact the individual. Based upon this genetic difference people should consume specific fruits or vegetables depending on their genotype.
Other examples include alcohol – for years blamed by many as being a toxin, calorie ridden, harmful substance – a socially accepted evil. However, nutrigenomics has now found that alcohol, in moderation of course, can actually help lower chances of heart disease. People who consumed alcohol moderately were found to have higher levels of High density lipids or HDLs.
The future is promising. Further studies will further clarify and explain these complex interactions and augment response to dieting, improving health and well being and reducing disease susceptibility.
Karl M McDonald is a free lance writer specializing in the field of DNA and genetics. The author is a graduate in forensic science who has received his education in both the US and the UK. Karl has currently taken a backseat in the world of academia and dedicated himself to his two kids. He currently works as a free lance writer from home during his free time. The author normally specializes in writing about genetics and forensic science.