Nutrigenomics: How Science Can Personalize Your Diet

“You are what you eat” is the old adage that taught us the importance of our diet. Now modern technology is taking nutrition to the next level, looking at how to improve individual health and prevent disease with unique sustenance plans. Nutrigenomics explores the complex interaction between what you eat and your genes. It looks at the big picture of how you food influences your genome – on the gene, protein, and metabolite level – and the effects of nutritional balance across your whole body.

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Personalized nutrition is a parallel to personalized medicine. The concept of adapting diet to individual needs is not new – for example, growing children, active athletes, pregnant women, and elderly people all have known specific nutrient requirements. Nutrigenomics changes personalized nutrition by using your genetic make-up as a differentiating factor. Each person is different. Because of your unique metabolism and genetic risks, you may need to add nutritional supplements to your diet or be weary of foods that are bad for your health.

The field takes nutritional science far beyond the basic food pyramid schema to address the diet-genome interactions behind major health issues. There are inherited metabolic disorders that can be life-threatening, which is why diagnostics for metabolic errors are vitally important for newborns. Diabetes, obesity, immune system disorders, heart health, infectious disease, and cancer are just some of the other conditions impacted by nutrigenomics. A prime example is celiac disease, the gluten-autoimmune disorder with genetic roots that has started the recent trend in gluten-free food and drinks. Most people with celiac have no obvious symptoms but the condition can cause major issues like anemia and even intestinal cancer without proper dietary intervention. Another example is individuals with specific variants related to insulin resistance can benefit greatly from adopting Mediterranean diet rather than the typical low-fat diet recommended to prediabetics and diabetics. Even though the current diagnostics for disorders like these are usually metabolic blood tests, with research constantly advancing and genomic profiling entering standard clinical care, it is feasible that genotyping could become the new standard screen.

The science of nutrigenomics is an exciting evolution. We are understanding more and more how our environment and food shift our health. In the future, the grocery aisle will be filled with personalized, practical solutions for health problems – not just “gluten-free” labels, but all different kinds of bioactive food molecules will be highlighted on grocery products to help you make the best choices for your health. As research continues to advance, New Amsterdam Genomics will continue to keep you at the forefront – giving you and your doctor the most important findings related to your specific genome, including any nutritional information that intersects with disease assessment, prevention, and management.

– Ashley

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