Nutrigenomics: Should Your Genes Determine Dinner?

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When the organizers of Vitafoods Europe asked 218 nutrition professionals what trends would impact the food industry most, 26 percent of them identified personalized nutritional assessments — including nutrigenomics — as something to watch.

Nutrigenomics is the study of how our gene expression reacts to nutrition. It’s scientific proof that there is no one-size-fits-all diet. In the age of personalized everything else, it makes sense that our eating habits would soon follow suit. We all have unique genetic makeups, predispositions, and tendencies that are expressed differently when we eat.

With nutrigenomics, we may finally be able to understand and accurately map out what those expressions mean for each of us.

Why Isn’t Genetic Dieting More Popular?

As new fad diets fall by the wayside, more people accept the idea of putting the individual first rather than whatever is popular. Nutrigenomics is the epitome of that philosophy because everything you eat is tailored specifically to optimize your body’s functions.

The role nutrition plays in health conditions such as obesity and cardiovascular disease are already well-known. So is the fact that macro- and micronutrients don’t affect each individual’s metabolism the same way. With nutrigenomic tailoring, your diet could become one of your most important preventive health measures as well as the foundation of your fitness and wellness routine.

Of course, because your meal plan is designed according to your genetic makeup, DNA testing is the cornerstone of nutrigenomic dieting. That phase is becoming easier as home DNA tests become more affordable, but the science of unlocking the nutritional secrets in your genes is still fairly new.

A recent study published by the European Society of Human Genetics found that dieters employing weight management programs tailored to the individual’s genome lost up to 33% more weight than those following standard, “one-size-fits-all” weight loss programs.

What We Need to Know First

With all we know about nutrition’s overall effects on our physical fitness and systemic health, it’s more than logical to be excited about nutrigenomics. The idea is promising, but the biggest flaw is that it’s still too early to tell whether the science is sound. Therefore, very few physicians support it out of fear that it might cause serious negative health consequences down the road.

If you’re considering nutrigenomics, take the following into consideration:

The science is very new. Some websites already offer nutrigenomic test kits, but the U.S. Government Accountability Office has identified several of them as harmfully misleading. Before jumping in feetfirst, make sure that you’re familiar with the company and their track record.

Your genes are only part of the equation. Things like environmental stressors, daily activity levels, hormone profiles, and food sensitivities all have significant roles to play, as well. Prioritize a healthy lifestyle all around, and look at all factors as puzzle pieces.

A professional needs to interpret your test. Whether you test now or later, be sure to have your results read and interpreted by a professional. It’s never a good idea to guess what your genes are trying to tell you. For instance, even if you have a family history of certain genetic mutations, your genes are still completely unique to you with many possibilities for gene expression. Professional interpretation is the only way to know exactly how they’re made up.

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