Is Nutrigenomics the Pathway to Personalized Nutrition?

Person blurring into dna (from Dr. Bonnie 360)

Obesity was recently classified as a disease by the American Medical Association. Ranking 5th in global obesity, over 30% of the US adult population is considered obese.  Everyone knows the traditional pyramid of nutrition, but new studies show that an individual’s genome may play a role in body type and individual nutritional needs.


What is Nutritional Genomics

Nutritional genomics is a field at the intersection of nutrition and genomics, examining the impact nutrition has on genes, and the impact that genes have on nutrition.  Not only can different nutrients in different foods have an impact on gene expression, but also your body’s response to certain foods depends on your genotype.  Nutritional genomics focuses on the specific nutrition an individual needs based on their genome.


Personalizing Nutrition: How it Works

Nutrition is following the personalization trend in healthcare.  By recognizing individuals’ necessary levels for nutrition, dieticians can customize their recommendations to what an individual needs.

Dietician Christine Marquette explains,

“(Already) some of the early research has identified different types of genes that respond differently to fats.  For example, if a person has genotype A, they may be able to tolerate a slightly higher level of saturated fat without it having a negative impact on their LDL (bad) cholesterol.  Whereas a person with genotype B may need a much lower level of saturated fat in their diet, because if they eat more than that amount, it significantly increases their LDL cholesterol.”


Personalized Dietary Recommendations

Nutritional Genomics may have the potential to change a dietician’s approach to nutrition -by providing the basis for personalized dietary recommendations.

For decades, researchers have been studying this approach for monogenic diseases. Many of the monogenic diseases that have personalized dietary recommendations are rare, like Phenylketonuria, which is treated with a Phe-restricted diet, which involves limited protein intake.

The current challenge is to broaden the studies to multifactorial diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer.  To date, there have been limited number of studies in multifactorial disease but results hold promise for the future.

Do you think that Big Data, will speed the discovery process in nutritional genomics for multifactoral diseases? Let me know what you think.

First posted on Dr. Bonnie 360 on 6/25/2012

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As principal of DrBonnie360, Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA brings a triple lens to her consulting, writing and speaking- that of an entrepreneurial dentist, a Wall Street analyst and a digital health analyst and consultant. Most recently, she has interviewed more than 200 digital health companies, while attending more than 50 meetings, always asking the question of how new digital tools and data help us each of us. Her research on “Big Data in Healthcare Hype and Hope” has been enjoyed by over 50,000 global professionals. Her work has been featured in O’Reilly Strata, Greatist and Forbes. She has been an invited speaker at the Stanford Medicine X, Bio-IT, Data to Drugs to Diagnostics, StrataRx, the Burrill Digital Health Conference, Games for Health, the Center for Connected Health, the Nye Collaborative Digital Health Summit, and the mHealth Summit. Her latest research has uncovered a large and growing need in the autoimmune community to apply new data and digital tools to improve treatment. She welcomes collaborative partners in this initiative.