For decades, even centuries, we have believed that dieting includes a few simple rules: lose the sugars, don’t eat highly-processed foods, don’t eat saturated fats, cut down the carbs, up the protein, eat as much of fruits and vegetables as you can, etc. However, these few principles don’t work so well for everyone. Ever wondered why? Well, the one-size-fits-all diets have one crucial flaw – not all of us are the same. But what can we do then?
To answer this question, nutrigenomics came into the playing field. It is an emerging discipline which uses genetic technology to explore food and nutrition, particularly the influence of the genome on the food components and nutrients.
While it sounds pretty complicated at first, it is actually quite simple. Let us try to get to the bottom of it together.
Definitions you need to know to understand nutrigenomics
Since there is a lot of science behind the term nutrigenomics, here are some definitions you need to know which will make it easier for you to understand its application.
- The genome is the genetic material that you are made of, or rather, born with. It is your DNA, which means it cannot be changed.
- The epigenome is the system of chemical compounds that interrelates with the genome by pointing which genetic material to activate or leave inactive. In simpler terms, it “turns on” or “turns off” your DNA. It is affected by nutrition, diet, exercise, personal health, and lifestyle choices. Unlike the genome, it is not written in stone.
- Nutrigenomics combines nutrition and gene expression. Scientists studying this field examine how bioactive components in food impact psychological and metabolic processes by activating or deactivating certain genes.
Personalizing the nutrition – what’s the catch?
The push for personalized nutrition began back in 2003 when the Human Genome Project was published, but we are still not there. The idea of a discipline looking at the specifics of one person, including the DNA and health conditions, sounds fantastic and applying nutrigenomics to everyday life offers new tools for dietitians to tailor and prescribe diets for individuals, and thus fight growing problems, such as diabetes and obesity.
However, this science is still evolving, and while we may easily call it the future, it still has some stepping stones to pass before it becomes a regular practice.
A 2015 review of nutrigenomics research stated that while the evidence is positively promising, many studies haven’t provided with definite links between genes typically observed in nutrigenomics testing and diet-related diseases. In simpler words, even if a nutrigenomics report recognizes the FTO mutation it doesn’t have to mean that you’re, without any doubt, going to be overweight.
Is it going to change everything?
Once the nutrigenomics is fully established as a discipline and we get all the answers we are still looking for, it is highly likely that this is going to change everything in the food industry and in how we view dieting.
When we move from a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition to something that’s very personalized, it will disrupt everything. It will change the way you shop and the way you eat. It will probably even change the way you think about your health and well-being.
This means that the food industry will have to go with the flow and change the way they are producing right now because some products that are now recommendable for everyone will stop being mass produced when people start applying the personalized approach to nutrition.
What can you do right now?
While we are waiting for more scientific evidence and directions, we can still personalize our diets based on what we know about our genes, hormonal balance, and the state of all the chemicals in our bloodstream and organism.
There are some blood tests you can take based on what your doctor recommends to you. For example, dopamine deficiency is a common problem which can be identified via a blood test. Once you know what you are lacking, you can boost this neurotransmitter by introducing more protein in your diet, eating less saturated fat, taking natural formulas dedicated to raising dopamine, consuming probiotics, and getting enough sleep.
There are even some at-home test kits to take blood and DNA samples which instruct you to take blood samples both before and after drinking certain test drinks. Once your samples are analyzed, you are placed in a category and it is showed how your body reacts to fats, protein, and carbohydrates. This way you may learn whether you need to increase or lower the consumption of some of these important nutrients.
Nutrigenomics is hardly a new idea in the scientific world, but it is yet to be developed into a fully applicable discipline which should make our lives much easier and healthier. Can we call it the future of personal health? We don’t know yet, but we sure can hope so.
*This is a guest post by Caitlin Evans.