Nutrition Fact: The way diet affects our health depends on our genetic make-up

Most of you probably already suspected this after knowing a friend or family member who can eat the same thing as you but it seems to affect them differently.  Well there’s many reasons for this– the amount and type of exercise they do, their food environment, overall diet, and also their genes! So how important are your genes in determining your overall health? Well we know there are certain genetic relationships to various disease outcomes, but with new research, we now also can tell if your genes can impact how you absorb certain nutrients or foods which can impact overall wellness over time.

Although this link between food and health is well known and documented, now that we have tools and data to interpret our genetic differences, it gives us a new dimension at looking at that link- one on a truly personalized nutritional level. This is exactly what nutrigenomics aims to study.

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What is Nutritigenomics?

  1. The study of how foods affect the expression of genetic information in an individual
  2. 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 for every individual 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 genes. 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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 you make more accurate dietary choices for your own optimal health.  Let me give you an example of what I mean. So let’s say you have a certain genetic mutation in the FUT2 gene.  This means you may not absorb vitamin B12 as efficiently as those without that mutation. Since vitamin B12 is essential for many processes such as normal brain function and reproductive health, knowing you have this mutation in the FUT2 gene would mean you need to consume vitamin B12 in a different format that your body can more efficiently absorb. Making this small change through food or specific dietary supplements could in turn help reduce your risk for certain disease states related to deficient or inadequate vitamin B12 intake.  Research has shown that lower vitamin B12 levels is linked to increased risk of chronic conditions such as CVD and poor fertility.  This is just one example of how knowing what your genes are and making small changes to your diet can impact your long term health and wellness.  Today we can test for over 45 different gene mutations that may impact the way you absorb or don’t absorb certain nutrients needed for various functions in our body.

Recommendations:

The breakthroughs in this field are pretty exciting and is already helping people work towards their wellness goals in a more precise fashion than ever before.  As the science and our data related to nutrient/gene interactions increases, the results that nutrigenomics can provide will become even more powerful and I’m super excited to see this.

As the genetic testing companies continue to grow as a business, I highly 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.  Doing the test through licensed professionals will also ensure you get your test done at a lab who is a leader in the field of nutrigenomics research.  Currently, my practice, Crave Health, is partnering with the biotech company Nutrigenomix for our tests but we are always on the look out for other partners who can provide accurate and affordable pricing on this new emerging science. If you’re interested in learning how to eat according to your genes, please get in touch with me or another licensed professional!

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