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Nutrigenomics: The Present And The Future



Personalized medicine has been on our mind for many years. It’s now one of the most talked about topics of our generation. Doctors, pharmacists and researchers have seen a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the Human Genome Project launched in 2000. We want the “magic pill” to fight deadly diseases and eliminate uncertainty in the field of medicine; one of those deadly diseases is what we call “globesity”, an international phenomenon.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) defines obesity as “having too much fat.” Not to be confused with being overweight, this is defined as weighing too much. In both cases it can be considered unhealthy. What causes concern is the increased risk factors associated with being obese, which are diabetes, heart disease, stroke and arthritis, among others. While many us of are aware of what can be now considered an epidemic, America continues to spiral out of control.

Just last year, a new Gallup and Healthways poll found the obesity rate is at its highest affecting more than 27-percent of the population. By looking inside our own genes, could we find that nutrigenomics is the powerful “magic pill” we have been waiting for?

Nutrigenomics explained

French chemist, Antoine Lavoisier was one of the first people to discover how we metabolize food. He shed some light on how nutrition worked within our bodies and was dubbed “The Father of Nutrition”.

Since then we have discovered many facets to our dietary needs and have shunned things like additives, chemicals and sugars while embracing diets that mimic the experiences of our ancestors.

Nutrigenomics could be defined as the relationship between diet and our genes. It has been found that the variations in genetic makeup and macronutrients could influence how our genes react to certain foods; certain variations could heavily influence some people’s metabolism in a negative way. By studying nutrigenomics we are trying to understand the relationship between our DNA and nutritional need and building a platform to hopefully one day end “globesity” for good.

It’s been proven that one size does not fit all when it comes to treating deadly diseases. That’s the reason personalized medicine has been a big priority for the current Obama administration. The same way one single gene mutation is sufficient to cause a disease, could we investigate what is causing our country to be obese? Could our eating habits cause gene mutations that are making us fat? Can we fix it?

Science behind genes and weight loss

Although the research it’s still ongoing, at least 14 genetic markers have been identified by scientists showing a susceptibility to diet-related-metabolic weight loss.

The famous study at Stanford University showed that “when individuals were assigned to different diets based on their genotype, they lost significantly more weight than those assigned to a diet unsuited to their genetics.”

Meanwhile, Harvard University School of Public Health has demonstrated that single gene mutations could cause a severe form of obesity; these genes are called monogenic mutations. Harvard is well known in the nutrigenomics community after it discovered the first ever obese related gene variants, known as FTO, in 2007, using genome-wide association studies.

And the fight is not only in the U.S. Newcastle University in the U.K. has partnered with a DNA-based company to try and confirm that DNA and diet are correlated.

The science exists; in an interview with ABC news, Dr. David Herber of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition was quoted as saying, “This is going to be the most revolutionary new change in nutrition in decades.”

The hesitation

While the research is there, pinpointing the exact gene that could help us understand how to stop our bodies from gaining weight has been extremely hard. While some forms of obesity are affected by one single gene mutation, most forms of the disease are affected by various gene mutations.

Nutritionists are not ready to rely on one source to fix the ever-growing problem of obesity, and neither are researchers. Is there still a lot to be learned in the field of nutrigenomics? Yes. Should we avoid talking about it as a reliable source of information? Never.  Can we apply it today? In my opinion, yes.

The Future of Nutrigenomics and “globesity”

More research is needed to find out if our genes can tell our entire health story, but we are hopeful the answer could be yes. What we know is that our DNA is very powerful and can tell us a lot about the human species. Now, one thing is for certain; we are beginning to pick the “low fruits on the human genome map” and we are seeing some great responses as to which genes could one day help give us a compass to a healthier lifestyle. However, it’s up to each individual to make use of the information. Environment is as much a cause of obesity as our genes and shouldn’t be ignored even in the face of science discovery.