Nutrigenomics is the study on how what we eat affects our genetic expression. Our body responds to food differently compared to other people, and the saying “you are what you eat” is true when understanding this concept. Knowing this is now crucial to understanding our need of a certain nutrient, such as vitamins and minerals to prevent disease. Every individuals’ requirement of these nutrients and how much we need is different.
One way nutrigenomics shows promising benefits is by identifying genes that hold the link between our DNA and what we eat. For example, the FTO gene produces a protein that controls our desire to eat. A variation of this gene can predispose us to weight gain and can be an indicator of becoming overweight. There are three variants of the FTO gene, each varying its ability and sensitivity to store fats. This is meant to serve as an indicator and not yet a definitive outcome.
According to the UC Davis NCHMD Centre of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics, there are 5 categories to nutrigenomics:
- Our diet can pose as a risk factor to cause diseases.
- Dietary chemicals can act on the human genome to alter gene activity and structure.
- Whether a person is healthy or not is dependent on the individuals’ genetics.
- Some gene expressions that are regulated by diets can contribute to developing the risk of chronic diseases.
- Personalising a person’s diet, based on nutrition, can prevent the increased risk of chronic disease.
Nutrigenetics is a similar concept except it is how your body responds to nutrients depending on your genetic variation. Understanding the connection between genetics and nutrition allows individuals to understand their own relationship with food. It could predict the effect of a certain food on our genes even before eating it.