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The Science of Nutrition

How Nutrigenomics Looks at 45 of Your Genes to Determine How You Should Eat

Variants in some of our genes determine how we metabolize and utilize nutrients. We all share the same set of genes, but some variants can impair the function of a particular gene, such as our ability to absorb calcium or metabolize iron, which would lead to mineral deficiencies. There is also a variant that can affect how we handle caffeine. If a heavy coffee drinker is a slow caffeine metabolizer they will retain more of the stimulant in their body, putting them at increased risk of having a heart attack and developing diabetes and hypertension. Then there are the lucky ones that metabolize caffeine quickly. They would receive a protective effect from moderate consumption of coffee, possibly because when they eliminate the heavy stimulants faster they can then benefit from the helpful ingredients left behind, such as polyphenols. When you hear in dietary trending about how drinking coffee can be actually be good for you, this is where that applies. This is one of those examples of selective reporting where the excitement generated around telling people their favourite beverage isn't bad for them excludes the caveat that warns: depending on your genetics.

One can also discover through genome testing how well they digest gluten or dairy, and knowing this can be the difference between just following a fad diet and actually making a difference in how we feel. Similarly, gene variants can also explain why we crave certain foods. Some of us may have a greater propensity for sugar or salt cravings which can eventually lead to imbalance and poor health.

If you're looking for a fully guided nutrition plan or just want to have a better understanding of your own individual genetic makeup, genome testing is an effective way to create a targeted, customized nutrition plan for anyone. Through this testing we can learn how we tolerate different types of fat, how much protein we need, how our body manages sugar, and more. That information allows a nutritionist to build the ideal plate for their client and give specific guidance about what foods to include and what to avoid. The added benefit to the client is it takes some of the guesswork out of shopping for and preparing meals, freeing up time and energy to focus on other positive health improvements.

Nutrition scientists have looked at whether genetic testing actually improves eating behaviors. The evidence is mixed, but it seems that people do respond to it better than other types of dietary advice. Studies have shown that when they receive more personalized advice and support, they pay more attention to that advice and are more likely to act on it in a sustained way.

Video: The Today Show, NBC

Recent coverage on NBC has brought more attention to genome testing and it seems to be well received by the conventional medical community when used for the purposes of customizing nutrition.

The science still has a ways to go, with the long term implications pointing towards not just immediate health improvements but disease prevention. In the meantime, finding out if you're low in iron or sensitive to gluten is a simple way to determine just what diet is right for you.

Visit the genome testing page of this site for more information about genome testing for nutrition.

Paula Blanchet, RHN

Interplay Nutrition

Information quoted from The Wall Street Journal article:

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