Did you know that humans are 99.9% identical at the DNA level? So what difference can the remaining 0.1% make? Well there’s about 3 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in that 0.1% of the human genome that are responsible for all of the morphological, physiological, and biochemical and molecular differences between us. So what does that mean on a nutrition level? While the link between food and health is well known and documented, now that we have tools to interpret our genetic differences, it gives us a new dimension at looking at that link- one on a truly personalized nutritional level.
What is Nutritigenomics?
- The study of how foods affect the expression of genetic information in an individual
- And how an individual’s genetic makeup metabolizes and responds to nutrients and bioactives
This just means that based on our different genetic make-up, food affects each of us differently and the degree to which diet influences the balance between healthy and disease states depends partially on an individual’s genetic makeup.
Nutritionists have recognized for years that individuals differ in their response to nutrient intakes. However, because we were not able to easily identify these differences before, the RDAs (recommended daily allowances) of common nutrients and other dietary intake advice were all based on population data that incorporates a certain margin of error to account for those variations in individuals. However, today with advances in science and the sequencing of the human genome, we now have the ability to do better– to make dietary recommendations and plans based on your OWN genes.
How does it work?
- Order a genetic test that uses saliva samples from a reputable lab. Most labs work directly with licensed professionals so you’ll usually order the tests through a licensed professional.
- The lab tests your saliva for at least 45 genetic markers currently known to affect aspects of your health including weight management and body composition, nutrient metabolism, eating habits, cardiometabolic health, food intolerances, and physical activity.
- The lab usually provides a detailed report to your healthcare provider within 2 weeks who then will help explain and interpret your individualized results to you
Why is this important?
This information is powerful because it can help make more accurate dietary choices for your own optimal health. For example, if you have a certain genetic mutation that makes it harder to absorb vitamin B12 which is essential for many processes, knowing you have that would mean you need to consume vitamin B12 in a different format your body can absorb. Making this small change could in turn help prevent certain disease states related to deficient or inadequate vitamin B12 intake in the future. That is just one example, the list can go on depending on your genetic make-up.
As science and our data related to nutrient/gene interactions increases, the results that nutrigenomics can provide will become even more powerful. I recommend ordering tests through licensed professionals who can help to properly interpret and create a plan of action related to your nutritional needs based on your results. After research on several tests and labs, my practice currently is partnering with the biotech company Nutrigenomix for our tests however there are many other tests that are also really great! Feel free to get in touch with me if you’re interested in getting yours done or have any questions about the topic.