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Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics – The Low Down

I recently wrote a blog introducing the fascinating topic, DNA and your diet, explaining the interconnected role that food and genes play in our health and longevity. It was here where we went back to basics and spoke about our genes and how they contain our blueprint and coding, determining which proteins will be produced in our bodies. These proteins act as instruction workers, working on all our biochemical pathways that control the functioning of our body.

If you recall, we also spoke about how 99.9% of everyone’s DNA is the same and it’s only the 0.1 % difference in our DNA sequence that makes us unique. These variations in our genetic coding (called SNPs or ‘snips’) can change how proteins are made and can affect the way in which we breakdown and use certain nutrients. They also explain why some of us are more at risk than others for things like being overweight or developing diseases. The impact of these variations can, however, be modified and controlled by environmental factors – nutrition being of one the most powerful ones.

DNA testing tells us all about our genes and their variations.

The question is, how exactly are nutrition and our genes so interconnected?

Nutrigenetics analyses how these variations in our genes, SNPs, change the way in which we breakdown and use certain nutrients and food components (bioactives). This helps us understand the impact that these variations can have on our health. Nutrigenetics is really what helps practitioners, such as myself, know each person’s unique dietary requirements.

Let me explain with an example or two:

Lipid proteins, such as apolioprotein C3 (APOC3), play an important part in managing cholesterol. If you have a variation in the genes that code for the production of these lipid proteins, then you are at risk for having higher triglyceride and cholesterol levels IF you eat a Westernized diet. Luckily, this variation is responsive to dietary changes, so you can decrease your saturated fat intake which is found in animal fats and creamy foods, increase your monounsaturated fat intake found in nuts, avocado, olive oil and peanut butter ,  and possibly decrease your carbohydrates to manage the risk.

Another good example would be why a higher carbohydrate intake affect some people more than others. There are many different genes regulating carbohydrate breakdown in the body. If a person has multiple SNPs in these genes, they will not be able to efficiently metabolize large amounts of carbohydrates, putting them at risk for weight gain, diabetes and other chronic diseases. These individuals would then know that they need to manage their carbohydrate intake differently.

Nutrigenomics, also known as nutritional genomics, works the other way around to nutrigenetics. It is how the bioactives, non-nutritive food components, and the nutrients in food affect the behaviour of our genes. This means that certain foods that we eat can ‘switch on’ good pathways that we want to enhance, like our anti-oxidant pathways, while others can ‘switch off’ pathways that don’t serve us well, like inflammatory pathways. Nutrigenmoics is the science of the diet-gene interaction that allows us to identify foods that have beneficial or detrimental effects on all of our health.

Let me explain with an example or two:

The food component or bioactive, resveratrol, found in grapes, berries and wine interacts with a gene regulator called Nrf2 ‘switching on’ the genes involved in promoting anti-oxidant pathways and reducing the risk of DNA and cell damage which can result in cancer inflammation and other chronic diseases.

Another good example would be how certain foods can help control inflammation in our body. Inflammation is the root of many chronic diseases, so we want to ensure that the genes involved in increasing chronic inflammation are ‘switched off’. Nf-Kb and TNF-aplha are genes that are strongly linked with pumping up the inflammation in our body. By eating certain foods, like turmeric which contains curcumin, you can help ‘switch off’ the activity of these pro-inflammatory genes.

So, nutrigenetics depends on our individual genetic make-up  , while nutrigenomics can be applied more generally to everyone . Understanding both of these is beginning to pave the way for personalized nutrition based on your genetic profile .

By having the information about our genes from DNA testing, as well as being able to improve gene activity by knowing which foods to eat, we can now customise our diet based on our life stage, dietary preferences, health and emotional status, medical and family history, level of physical activity, environmental factors and also on our genetic characteristics. In this way, individualised nutrition planning can help create healthy bodies, healthy aging and disease prevention.

Knowing your genes and the power of food, gives you the ability to make the right choices when it comes to your health.

Welcome to the new nutrition conversation!!

Nourish yourself to the sunrise.

Written with love ,
Sunrise by HM

Nourished yet? Comment on what I should write about next?

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