The interesting field of nutrigenomics
What is it?
Nutrigenomics, or nutritional genomics, is a new approach to healthcare that looks at how our diet, nutrients, and genes all contribute to overall health and well-being. This area has gained interest from many healthcare workers and researchers, as the field of personalized medicine continues to grow.
Most people think of their genes as controlling physical traits such as eye color or hair texture. While this is true, our genes also impact other aspects of our lives, like nutrition. Genes can affect how our body responds to the foods we consume, while our diet, in turn, can turn on or off certain genes.
Nutrigenomics provides insight into how genes and diet together impact the development of diseases, and help guide healthcare providers on how to prevent and treat them.
How does it work?
Nutrigenomics uses technology to analyze different variations of genes and how gene mutations are affected by diet and nutrition. This information can then be used to make personalized nutrition recommendations for patients. As with anything to do with genes and how the body works, there are still some obstacles that need to be overcome. Such challenges arise from the fact that numerous genes can play a role in the development of diseases, and each gene may respond differently to diet and lifestyle. Another challenge is that every person’s body and genome is unique and may require different amounts of nutrients.
How does it benefit me?
By looking at each individual’s genetic makeup, healthcare professionals will be able to make recommendations and customized health plans that are unique to you. This may help determine what type of diet, for example vegan or keto, would or would not provide health benefits for you. Nutrigenomic tests may also even tell providers the best way for you to obtain the macro- and micronutrients you need, and then together you can build the most beneficial diet. On the other hand, the information can help reveal which foods may predispose you to certain diseases in the future so that you can take preventative action.
Who is involved?
The European Nutrigenomics Organisation (NUGO) and the International Society for Nutrigenomics & Nutrigenetics are two of the many organizations that are devoting their time and resources to improve the world of nutrigenomics. They are working to decrease the amount of nutritional-related diseases by focusing on making changes to the diets of those populations that suffer the most. Unfortunately, there is a lack of human experimental trials that have made progress difficult.
What does the test entail?
Nutrigenomic testing is quite simple actually. You first start with a health questionnaire to gain background information on your health status, history, family history, and current/past lifestyles. This is followed by an at-home cheek swab test to obtain gene samples. Some patients may require a blood test if there is any additional information needed. Once the results are ready, you can meet with a dietitian or nutritionist to create a customized diet and health plan.
It is important to keep in mind a nutrigenomic test will not tell you exactly how to become healthy overnight. Yes, it helps guide you as to what foods you may want to avoid and what others may provide a benefit, but the tests cannot predict with 100% accuracy how your body will respond to a specific diet. It is also key to remember that genetics and diet are not the only aspects that control our health. Other areas such as sleep, exercise, and stress must still be considered as well as chronic conditions and gut health! We have to absorb those nutrients!
What is in store?
As mentioned previously, the major issue that needs to be addressed is the lack of human trials. As time goes on and both patients and healthcare providers become more familiar with the aspect of nutrigenomics, hopefully more research will be conducted. Furthermore, while nutrigenomics can provide fascinating information into health and disease, there is a need to look at how other aspects of our lives also impact genes.
Our Pharmacists at PharmToTable specialize in functional medicine using a lifestyle-based approach. We also have health coaches on our team who can help you start to make changes towards improving your health. We’d be honored to help you on the journey of working towards better health with nutrigenomics. Book an appointment or schedule a free 15-minute discovery call today!
Written by Jeremy Trapp, PharmD Candidate, Class of 2023
- How Nutrigenomics May Impact the Way You Eat. (2022, May 10). Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-does-nutrigenomics-work/
- Nutrigenomics. | National Cancer Institute. (2011, February 2). www.cancer.gov. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/nutrigenomics
- Nutrigenomics Might Be the Future of How You Eat. (2021, March 16). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/nutrigenomics-might-be-the-future-of-how-you-eat
- Nutrigenomics. The basics. | The Nutrition Society. (n.d.). www.nutritionsociety.org. https://www.nutritionsociety.org/blog/nutrigenomics-basics#:~:text=Nutrigenomics%20