Will Nutrigenomics Give Us “Personalized” Nutrition?


Obesity was recently classified as a disease by the American Medical Association. Ranking 5th in global obesity, over 30% of the US adult population is considered obese.  Everyone knows the traditional pyramid of nutrition — however, new studies show that an individual’s genome may play a role in body type and individual nutritional needs.

What is Nutritional Genomics?

Nutritional Genomics is a field at the intersection of nutrition and genomics. It examines  the impact nutrition has on genes and the impact that genes have on nutrition.  Not only can different nutrients in different foods have an impact on gene expression, but your body’s response to certain foods depends on your genotype.  In summary, Nutritional Genomics focuses on the specific nutrition an individual needs based on their genome.

Personalizing Nutrition: How it Works

Nutrition is following the personalization trend in healthcare.  By recognizing individuals’ necessary levels for nutrition, dieticians can personalize their recommendations to what an individual needs.

Dietician Christine Marquette explains, “[Already] some of the early research has identified different types of genes that respond differently to fats.  For example, if a person has genotype A, they may be able to tolerate a slightly higher level of saturated fat without it having a negative impact on their LDL (bad) cholesterol.  But a person with genotype B may need a much lower level of saturated fat in their diet because if they eat more than that amount, it significantly increases their LDL cholesterol.”

Using Nutritional Genomics for Personalized Dietary Recommendations

Nutritional Genomics may have the potential to change a dietician’s approach to nutrition – by providing the basis for personalized dietary recommendations.

For decades, researchers have been studying this approach for monogenic diseases. Many of the monogenic diseases that have personalized dietary recommendations are rare, like Phenylketonuria, which is treated with a Phe-restricted diet that limits protein intake.

The current challenge is to broaden the studies to multifactorial diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer.  To date, there have been a limited number of studies in multifactorial disease but results hold promise for the future.

Do you think that Big Data will speed the discovery process in nutritional genomics for multifactorial diseases?


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