Personalized Nutrition is the concept of tailoring your diet in a specific way in which your genetic makeup predisposes you to react to different foods and other consumable products. “Nutrigenomics” as it’s called, is a field that remains nascent and fast-moving, with the potential to lay the foundations of truly ‘personalised nutrition.’
What is nutrigenomics?
Nutrigenomics comes under the study ‘nutritional genomics.’ The term “nutritional genomics” is a study including several subcategories, such as nutrigenetics, nutrigenomics, and nutritional epigenetics. Each of these explains some aspect of how our genotypes react to nutrients and express specific phenotypes. In simpler language how our genes react to certain foods and express various physical traits. There are several applications of nutritional genomics, for example how much nutritional tailoring is required so as to successfully prevent disease and carry forward its treatment.
According to geneticists, there is no technology to accurately be able to predict the most healthy diet for an individual, with or without the use of genomics. However, this concept of a customised diet based on an individual’s genetic material is not new. Some companies are already offering it to their consumers.
How does nutrigenomics actually work?
Researchers have been investigating the relationship between a person’s unique genetic makeup and how they react to foods differently from other people.
Moreover, Scientists are beginning to bring out the connections among one’s genes, microbiome, diet, environment and lifestyle, which are unimaginably complex. Studies have linked at least 38 genes to nutrient metabolism — variants of which are thought to hinder or help absorption or the efficient use of nutrients in foods. Thus, Depending on your genetic makeup, studies suggest you might want to consume more or less folate, choline, vitamin C, fatty acids, starches and caffeine.
Although gene expression, the microbiome and other factors used to personalize diets are not unchangeable, they may be altered not only by foods but also by factors like stress and chemical exposures, changing by the year, month or even week.
Thus, Nutritional genomics has increased the understanding of how to maintain a healthy group of individuals that live in different dietary conditions. New insights about the influence of nutrients into people’s diet have been postulated, which include
(i) how gene expression in response to metabolic process, at a cellular level, influence the health of an individual
(ii) how gene expression and metabolic responses are the results of the interaction between genotype and environment/nutrient
(iii) Understanding how this interaction process occurs between gene and nutrient could lead to the prescription of specific diets for each individual.
What does the future hold for nutrigenomics?
Once this discipline becomes more sophisticated and is widely accepted, food and nutrition supply will move away from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to truly unique and customised nutrition.
Companies like DNAFit, Nutrigenomix, and Habit are already offering services that help you by constructing your eating plan in accordance with your very own DNA. All they ask for is a sample of your genetic materials to prepare a customized diet plan.
This discovery of gene-nutrient interactions will aid the prescription of customized diets according to each individual’s genotype. Thus, making it possible to mitigate the symptoms of existing diseases or to prevent future illnesses, especially in the area of Non-Transmissible Chronic Diseases (NTCDs), which is currently considered an important world public health problem.
But that is not all, personalised nutrition would also open gates for interesting questions – about how local and seasonal foods are essential, the solutions to puzzles that beat around the importance of rice for a south Indian, paratha for a north Indian, a burger for an American, and why every food doesn’t suit everyone.
Some people might also question how DNA based nutrition is actually helpful as people already know what is good or bad for them from experiences and family history. So what’s the selling point for such companies if everyone simply starts consuming what they know is good from personal experience?
The answer to all these questions and “What is it that our body asks us for?” – lies in our history of where we come from. And our genes are a steadfast documentary of this history. Studying those genes would ultimately lead us to better solutions catering to the betterment of our health and lifestyle.
Personalised DNA based nutrition is indeed the future of consuming foods and healthy lifestyles. It is bound to grow and achieve a great response from consumers all over the world who crave for a health and taste friendly diet.
However, this would not only require more research in terms of genotype interactions with nutrients and environment but also require the companies in this field to build consumer’s trust and engagement.
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