Nutrigenomics – the Gene – Food Connection

Nutrigenomics is a particular type of research that studies the relationship between diet and human genetics. This means that in the future, because of all the intensive research that is being performed, you will be able to make a doctor’s appointment and they will be able to direct you to a specific diet personalized to your genetic makeup. For example, they may be able to tell you genetically if a high protein, high fat diet is better suited for you than a higher more complex carbohydrate diet.

What is the importance of nutrigenomics and what are scientists looking for?

Investigators are looking at how food may help influence the genes that increase the risk for blood sugar problems, obesity, brain related problems, cardiovascular health and mutated cells.

The particular types of science that are involved with this type of research includes biochemistry, nutrition, genomics, physiology and other divisions that investigate the association between food, nutrients and genetics at the cellular level (Sales NMR et al, 2014). There is even Sports nutrigenomics looking at a personalized nutrition program to help improve athletic performance (Guest NS et al, 2019).

DNA is the hereditary material that is found in living cells and genes are made up of DNA. A genome is the all of the DNA within a person or animal. 

The aging process is known to be complicated and is influenced by genetics, but it is also affected by diet, exercise and lifestyle. Nutrigenomic studies look at how particular nutrients in the diet can help the genome.

It may sound funny, but the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has been used in, in vivo studies to evaluate the effects of nutrigenomics on aging.

The fruit fly Drosophila has good research that demonstrates it has a complex level of genetics similar to humans. A large percent of human disease genes have an identifiable equivalent in the genetic code of these fruit flies. Therefore, they are frequently being used to study different diets on longevity. In fact, it has been shown that they have around 75% of human disease-related genes with similar functional roles (Evangelakou Z et al, 2019). 

Nutrigenomic research has shown that there are bioactives from food and plants that are supportive against inflammation markers. These include tyrosol from olive oil, quercetin found in fruits and green vegetables, caffeic acid from Yerba mate and lycopene, the carotenoid in tomatoes. These bioactives have been shown to inhibit COX2 and iNOS gene expression (Daimiel L et al, 2012, Ong TP et al, 2009).

The study of omega 3 fatty acids have demonstrated in nutrigenomic research that they may have an impact on sirtuin proteins, which will stimulate genes. This helps to keep the cells healthy (Grabowska W et al, 2017). 

Foods found in a healthy diet contain rich sources of vitamins and minerals. It is interesting that some deficiencies of these important micronutrients like vitamin B6, B12, niacin, folic acid, vitamin C and E, selenium and zinc cause problems that can lead to breakage of DNA strands and oxidative damage (Sales NMR et al, 2014).

In summary, nutrigenomics is a particular type of research that studies the relationship between diet and human genetics. Investigators evaluate how food may influence genes that would affect body systems and body functions including blood sugar, maintaining weight, brain function, cardiovascular and cellular health. This type of science provides good insight to help individuals have healthier lives and live longer.