The study of genes has shown that every individual is genetically unique, and this discovery leads to a host of questions as to the relationship between an individual’s genes and environmental factors such as diet.
That is, how does diet interact with one’s genetic make-up to affect one’s health? This is the primary concern of nutrigenomics. It is the study of how different foods interact with particular genes, affecting how these genes act or altering their structures.
Specifically, nutrigenomics is concerned with how chemicals in different foods can interact with particular genes to increase the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and some cancers.
Nutrigenomics dictates that understanding how dietary chemicals regulate different genes will lead to individualized nutrition, the ability to design diets catered to one’s specific genetic make-up.
For example, the food pyramid developed by the USDA assumes that all Americans are the same and have the same dietary needs. Of course, the truth is that we’re not.
A lucky few of us can consume high fat diets and yet not develop heart disease, while others on moderate fat diets may develop heart disease.
Perhaps one day our doctors will read our DNA and take into account our genotype along with other environmental factors such as our physical activity. They may then prescribe us individualized diets, designed to match our unique nutritional needs.
This way, diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s may actually be slowed down or even prevented.