How your genes affect your nutritional needs and health

The genetic blueprint of nutrition
Personalized diets
Challenges and controversies
From research to reality
References
More information


Nutrigenomics, or nutritional genomics, encompasses the study of the interaction between genes and nutrition, with gene variants predicting how an individual’s body will respond to specific nutrients.[1] Gene-diet interactions are a bidirectional axis and can influence the health and disease status of individuals; approaches that define these interactions at both the cellular and molecular levels may aid in the development of nutritional interventions tailored to each individual’s genome.[2]​

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The genetic blueprint of nutrition

Nutrigenomics involves the use of various scientific fields, including biochemistry, physiology, nutrition, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, transcriptomics, and epigenomics, to study and understand the bidirectional interactions between various genes and nutrients at the molecular level.[2]

Identifying these gene-nutrient interactions can help create prescribed personalized diets that match each person’s genotype.[3] This understanding and development of a personalized diet has the potential to alleviate the symptoms of both existing diseases as well as prevent future diseases, especially for non-communicable chronic diseases (NTCDs), which is a significant global public health problem.[3]

An example of gene interaction with food can be seen with genes responsible for the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and fats.[4] Two gene polymorphisms, rs1042714 and rs1042713, associated with the ADRB2 gene, which encodes the β2-adrenergic receptor, cause a decrease in the rate of carbohydrate release into cells, and this can subsequently lead to the development of disorders including type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity and metabolic syndrome.[4]

In addition, the gene that encodes the nuclear receptor (gamma receptor), known as PPARG, induces the proliferation of peroxisomes; this regulates the transcription of various genes involved in lipid and carbohydrate metabolism in muscle tissue and inflammatory processes.[4]

Researchers believe that a portion of the PPARG gene that consists of the oligonucleotide polymorphism, rs1801282, increases insulin sensitivity, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein, and increased glucose utilization, which acts as a protective mechanism against obesity and diabetes mellitus.[4]

Image Credit: MiniStocker/Shutterstock.com

Image Credit: MiniStocker/Shutterstock.com

Personalized diets

The translation of nutrigenomics can lead to a more personalized approach to both diet and health, with diet playing an important environmental role in health, from benefits, including disease prevention, to performance and overall quality of life.[5]

Individuals are known to react differently to the same food intake. For example, for the past 20 years it has been thought that dietary cholesterol leads to changes in plasma cholesterol; however, this may depend on the individual. Furthermore, some differences in response to dietary cholesterol also depended on genotype. [5]

Customizing the overall diet may not be as simple as customizing the basic nutrient intake that can be delivered through supplementation.[5] The goal of personalizing nutrition depends on individual genotype and metabolic variation, which first requires identification of responders and non-responders to personalized diets. [5]

The practical implications of creating personalized diets can be difficult because each person has different needs and reactions to diet components; this topic is actively researched in nutrigenomics to determine which difference results from heritable variation of the genetic sequence.[5]

Challenges and controversies

Dietary health challenges have evolved over the years, from finding solutions to nutrient deficiencies resulting from poor food choices to addressing caloric imbalances caused by poor diets.[5] This has changed consumer concerns about food from acute safety concerns to fear of long-term health deterioration.[5]

Achieving individualized diets and personal health will require the customization of whole diets instead of just occasional foods, meaning that nutritional needs will need to be integrated into all foods consumed.[5]

This approach of developing comprehensive diet plans that supply all the meals and foods to the individual each day to meet their nutritional needs can have the unfortunate consequence of destroying the traditional joy that people experience in the variety of the open food market. Subsequently, this may not be a sustainable approach for every person.[5]

However, approaches that combine the ability to meet nutritional needs while allowing for personal choice may be more palatable.[5] Additionally, developing diets that are based on metabolic, performance, and cognitive demands may be the first step in helping those who choose to eat healthier with food products and devices already on the market to respond of consumer demand.[5]

Ethical considerations of nutrigenomics-guided personalized diets that encapsulate genetic testing to obtain nutritional advice include the lack of knowledge of risks, as it may be difficult to avoid unknown risks.[6] The precautionary principle states to exercise caution and avoid actions when risks cannot be predicted, and customizing diets based on genotypes is not something that can be stated as absolutely safe or risk-free.[6]

NUTRIGENOMY | Dr. Sarah Gottfried | TEDxMarin

From research to reality

One of the first dietary intervention studies involved the use of proteomic technology to identify biomarkers that demonstrated the response of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) to dietary isoflavone extract in postmenopausal women.[7]

Proteomics in PBMCs was used to identify proteome-diet interactions during the postprandial state after different types of meals, demonstrating how certain meals increase or decrease proteins that respond to oxidative stress and DNA damage.[7] This may demonstrate the impact of using dietary regulation approaches to achieve more favorable outcomes in individuals with health problems.[7]

With various studies being explored, including the use of metabolomics, because metabolites are products of dietary intake and metabolism, these analytical tools can assess biochemical and physiological pathways of associated dietary or disease metabolic biomarkers.[7]

Interestingly, individuals who are overweight or have type 2 diabetes have specific metabolomic signatures dependent on lipid species and amino acids, and their identification in individuals may help in personalizing a diet that consists of low-glycemic foods index, as opposed to foods with a high glycemic index for more favorable health outcomes.[7]

Overall, nutrigenomics in healthcare can be an innovative approach for preventive medicine and can help better manage chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity.[7]

References

  • Cleveland Clinic. How nutrigenomics can affect the way you eat. Cleveland Clinic. December 14, 2023. Accessed January 5, 2024. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-does-nutrigenomics-work.
  • Ahluwalia MK. Nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics – a personalized approach to nutrition. Advances in genetics. Published online 2021:277-340. doi:10.1016/bs.adgen.2021.08.005
  • Sales NM, Pelegrini PB, Goersch MC. Nutrigenomics: Definitions and Advances of this New Science. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2014; 2014: 1-6. doi:10.1155/2014/202759
  • Vesnina A, Prosekov A, Kozlova O, Atuchin V. Genes and food preferences, their role in personalized nutrition. Genes. 2020; 11 (4): 357. doi:10.3390/genes11040357
  • German JB, Zivkovich AM, Dallas DC, Smilowitz JT. Nutrigenomics and personalized diets: what will they mean for food? Annual Review of Food Science and Technology. 2011; 2 (1): 97-123. doi:10.1146/annurev.food.102308.124147
  • Görman U, Mathers JC, Grimaldi KA, Ahlgren J, Nordström K. Do we know enough? A Scientific and Ethical Analysis of the Basis for Genetically Based Personalized Nutrition. Genes & Nutrition. 2013; 8 (4): 373-381. doi:10.1007/s12263-013-0338-6
  • Brennan L, de Roos B. Nutrigenomics: Lessons learned and future perspectives. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2021; 113 (3): 503-516. doi:10.1093/ajcn/nqaa366

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