Nutrigenomics

Have you ever heard of using your genes to determine the best diet for you? That's what nutrigenomics is all about.

Diet trends are a familiar part of American culture. You may have heard about health trends like the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting, but one diet trend experts project to grow in the coming years is nutrigenomics.

Giles Yeo, a geneticist at the University of Cambridge, defines nutrigenomics as the study of whether human genes influence nutritional requirements, or in plain terms, if DNA can determine a personalized diet that optimizes health. Yeo is the author of “Gene Eating: The Science of Obesity and the Truth About Dieting.”

In an interview with The Guardian, Yeo said, “Two things: if you want to lose weight, you need a diet to suit your particular lifestyle and your weaknesses. The other thing is: never fear food. Love it, but don’t eat quite as much of it as you want.”

Jennifer Bean, a registered dietician in Columbia and MU professor, agrees that nutrigenomics could help people eat healthier. Both Bean and Yeo said experts need to further develop the research behind nutrigenomics before the public has access to the technology.

“Once we can get to a situation where we can measure what we eat precisely [for] millions of people,” Yeo said, “I think we’ll get a better chance of getting to a point where we can make some predictions about what we can and cannot eat based on our genes.”

Yeo said companies like 23andMe and GenoPalate mistakenly use data based on DNA by applying it too generally to individuals. He believes these companies are “misunderstanding the difference between population level risk and trying to make an individual prediction.” Yeo said consumers should not rush to try nutrigenomics until the science is ready for commercial use.

Interested in learning more about nutrigenomics? Here are some links to additional reading on the subject:

  1. Gene Eating, Yeo’s book. He explains misconceptions behind diet trends and how genetics can influence our eating patterns.
  2. "Diet for One? Scientists Stalk the Dream of Personalized Nutrition," a New York Times article by Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley. The authors examine Predict, the world’s most comprehensive study of individual responses to food, and what the experiment’s results mean for the future of nutrigenomics.
  3. "Nutrigenomics: The Genome–Food Interface," an article in Environmental Health Perspectives by M. Nathaniel Mead. The author’s background as a nutrition educator and consultant shines through in this informative article. Mead explains the concepts behind nutrigenomics and its interactions with the human body.
  4. "Nutrigenomics: Future or Fad?" an article published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Food & Nutrition Magazine by Ginger Hultin. If you want to learn about the history of nutrigenomics, Hultin gives context to the science by explaining how The Human Genome Project led to the possibility of personalized nutrition.

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