While still considered an emerging science, nutrigenomics is already transforming how we eat and how doctors and nutritionists recommend diets. Simply put, gone are the days of a one-size-fits-all diet. Nutrigenomics helps us understand how our genes and what we eat interact, and what that means for our health.
Nutrigenomics in a Nutshell
In the simplest of terms, nutrigenomics is the study and branch of genetic research of how foods affect our genes and how, in return, genetic variations affect the way we react to nutrients in foods.
If you remember learning about the human genome in biology class, you may recall that we all have around 3 billion DNA pairs living within our 23 pairs of chromosomes. While 98% of our genes are all the same, our protein-coding genes comprise of around 2% of your genome. It’s this small part (known as the exome) that contains the genes that define your unique traits, such as lactose sensitivity, lean muscles, or straight hair. These genes instruct your amino acid arrangements for proteins that create your traits.
So while we all have the same genes, we each have genetic variants that can impact what we look like, what we’re allergic to and what our bodies need to thrive. Through the studies of the human genome, researchers and scientists have discovered that different people respond in different ways to different diets because the variations in our DNA can have a significant impact on our metabolic efficiency, how or what causes us to lose or gain weight and more.
What Can Nutrigenomics Teach Me about My Body?
Nutrigenomics can reveal a number of health-related issues that can help you better understand what fuels your body and what doesn’t. For example, nutrigenomics can help you understand if you’re lactose or gluten intolerant, what kind of diet can help you manage your weight and how your body processes nutrients.
By determining a diet that aligns with your genetic variants and body’s needs, you may find it easier to manage your weight and feel better from what you eat. For example, if you didn’t know you were gluten intolerant, you may not realize that those lethargic feelings and bloating were a result of the bread you were eating at lunch.
Or, nutrigenomics may help you determine that you need to eat more healthy fats in your diet, reduce your carbohydrate intake or eat more foods rich in a particular vitamin. With a comprehensive view of your body’s needs, you can ensure you choose the right foods that help you feel energized, healthy and full.
Why is Nutrigenomics Important?
Most professionals will tell you that staying fit and at a healthy weight is only 20% exercise and 80% diet. Regardless of how much you exercise, your diet plays a key role in your weight and your health, including your risk for type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, heart disease and cancer.
While we may know we need to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables per day and limit our fried food intake, a well-calibrated diet goes far beyond general recommendations. Without taking a deep dive into your body’s genetic variants and current health, you may not realize you’re lacking in a particular nutrient or consuming too much protein and not enough carbohydrates.
How Can I Use Nutrigenomics to My Advantage?
- Your eating behaviors. You’ll find out if your genetics make you more inclined to have a sweet tooth, crave snacks, have trouble feeling full and more.
- Your food reactions. Learn how your body reacts to common foods to understand if you may be lactose intolerant, experience alcohol flush and more.
- Your matching diet. Learn your genetic diet type, including your response to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 and omega-6 levels.
- Your nutritional needs. Learn which vitamins you need to optimize.
- Your metabolic health factors. Discover how your diet affects your cholesterol, including if you’re at risk for decreased HDL cholesterol, elevated blood sugar, elevated LDL cholesterol or elevated triglycerides.
These tests help you uncover your personalized genetic nutrition profile, including the ratio of carbs, proteins and fats for your body, as well as how to make proactive decisions regarding diet, exercise, & lifestyle based on your DNA. You’ll also gain insight into your genetic predisposition for exercise to get the most benefit from endurance and strength training.
If you’re interested in learning how your genetics can help determine the right diet for you, work with your doctor to test your DNA and uncover a wealth of information about your body’s needs.