Nutritional Genomics? What is this?

Information from – Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology 2nd edition. Nelms et al. 2010

Everyone has heard that eating red meat is bad for you and has connections with many diseases. Have you ever wondered why two people can both eat red meat and only one will develop negative health effects? Have you ever wondered why some people are able to easily burn off that cookie easier than others? Or why two people can be on the same diet with the same body type, with the same goal of either losing or gaining weight and have totally different results? Unfortunately there are many reasons why this can happen. However, I do have some interesting information to give you some insight into some new research that can partially explain these differences.

Have you ever heard of the term Nutritional Genomics? This is a term that describes the interactions between a persons genes and the food / substances they ingest and how their body responds to it. So basically, depending on two peoples different genetic make up, they can both eat those chocolates and maybe only one of them will pack on the extra pounds, amazing!

Nutritional genomics is composed of two areas of focus

1. Nutrigenetics – this is how your existing genes can influence the activity of nutrients / substances entering into your body. Your genes can affect the incoming substances by:

a. Absorption rate – some people will absorb more vitamin C out of that same orange.
b. Nutrient use and metabolism – these are the different rates that substances are metabolized in the body. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all metabolize fat as well as lean people.
c. Nutrient requirements – because people have different absorption and metabolism rates, some require less of a given substance than others.
d. Food and nutrient tolerances – our genes may influence our tolerance to certain foods or substances, such as dairy (i.e. lactose and gluten intolerance).

2. Nutrigenomics – this is the study of how nutrients influence the activity of your genes. All food and substances entering your body can affect your existing genetic make up by:
a. Gene mutation – genes can become mutated which will make you susceptible to other forms of disease
b. Gene expression – this can be a good thing or bad thing. Some genes we want expressed (tumor suppressor genes) and some genes we don’t wanted expressed (cancerous genes).

This research is fairly new, however a few interesting findings have been made. I would like to give you one example: a lot of people are aware of the connection between the consumption of red meat and colon cancer. Well, according to nutritional genomics research, there are two specific genes called “NAT 2” (N-acetyl transferase) and “CYP1A2” (cytochrome p450 1a2). Researchers have found that those individuals with mutations in these specific genes had a higher risk for developing colon cancer from eating red meat. Those without these gene mutations can eat red meat without developing a higher risk for colon cancer!

Like I mentioned this research is fairly new and there are a few things researchers are taking into account for the future of its practice. First of all, in order to construct a diet plan based on an individual’s genetic make-up, it’s required to take a sample of the person’s genome. This can be very expensive, and not to mention, invasive!
Secondly, having your genome analyzed may increase the risk of having your genetic information accessible to insurance companies.

Overall, this is definitely the future of understanding the relationship
between your diet, genetic make-up, and the development of disease. If you found this interesting, you should read a bit more into the topic. With greater knowledge, you have the ability to make informed decisions on how to take control of your health!

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