Nutrigenomics starts with you, ends with food
Simply put, nutrigenomics informs us which foods are the best information choice for our genes and to how to prepare them to support your health. In this blog article I will describe the origins of this new field of nutrition science and describe more precisely what nutrigenomics means. Then I’ll talk about how to use this new exciting area of science to create the best path for your health.
The Human Genome Project and genomics
Let’s begin at the beginning with The Human Genome Project. This landmark research project completed in 2003, provided scientists with a blueprint of the approximately 20,500 genes that make up human beings. Think of it as a map of how humans are built. Completion of this important project gave birth to genomics, a field of science that tells us what genes are and how each of them functions in the human body.
Genes are important to the framework and function of the human body. Genes hold the unique recipe for every protein. One gene may make one type of protein, another gene will make another type of protein. Read more about genes here.
Proteins are fundamental to life and our health. They lie at the heart of how our bodies function.They direct everything from how we are built and move, to things we don’t think about like breathing and digesting our food. Some proteins become muscle while some become hormones, enzymes or bone for example.
What is Nutrigenomics?
Now that you know what genes do, lets talk about how they are powered. And one of the things that powers them are the nutrients you find in food.
The science of how genes are powered is called nutrigenomics = nutrition + genomics. To be clear, other elements provide information to our genes, such as stress, exercise and environmental toxins. That being said, nothing is more influential than food which is the principle source of information genes work with.
Nutrigenomics allows us to understand how the food we eat, specifically nutrients and non-nutrient components in food called bioactives, interact with our genes and influence how they work. Up until this point, we didn’t know how powerfully nutrition influences our genome.
Nutrigenomics gives us new insight into how food actually works in the body influencing health at the gene level. Genes are the pivot that food interacts with to produce proteins which guide every aspect of how the human body works. You can explore this more here.
What nutrigenomics means to you
Nutrigenomics is used as a guide to the best food choices you can make based on how genes work in your body. For example, if you want to reduce inflammation, something I call fire in the body, you can choose food that influences the genes that are directly involved in managing inflammation. Let’s put this in perspective using the example of inflammation.
There is a lot of nutrition noise in our world. You only have to search on the internet to find that there are untold numbers of supplements and recipes that claim to reduce inflammation. Nutrigenomics allows us to see past the noise. We can literally lift the body’s hood to see which systems are causing inflammation, and importantly which genes are involved. Knowing which foods work with the specific genes that cause or tame inflammation, we can plug the right foods in. This effectively dampens the noise around anti-inflammatory food and supplement claims, and leads us to the specific foods that work as anti-inflammatories for us humans.
Here’s an example. We know that the allium family e.g. onions, garlic, leeks, etc. can turn off the TNF-alpha gene which can cause a great deal of inflammation. Elderberries, capers, turmeric (especially the roasted root) and radishes can do the same thing! This is unlike simply taking a supplement that claims to tame inflammation. Nutrigenomics gives us very precise information based on the information that food provides to our genes that direct biological pathways in the body. You can read more about how different foods provide information to genes here.
Does nutrigenomics require a genomic test?
As you now know, nutrigenomics is the science of how food works with human genes. Humans share approximately 99% of the same genes. Afterall, genes are what make us human. What differentiates us are little spelling errors or variants called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, or SNPs for short.
These spelling errors are typos in the genetic information that is transferred from the gene to create individual protein “recipes.” Errors can determine whether the protein that is created is functioning the way it is designed to, or whether it not working to its full capacity. When the protein is not showing up to work on time in your body, or slacking on the job, it sometimes requires additional nutrient support from specific food or even a supplement.
The only way we know if you have specific errors or SNPs is through genomic testing, which is a saliva test. Genomic testing provides you with the clearest insights into your unique human blueprint.
Let me be clear that the errors I am talking about here (SNPs) are NOT fatal or life-threatening and occur among 99.9% of the human population. These are different errors than genetic mutations which occur among 1 % of the population, can be life-threatening and require a different form of genetic testing that is not based on nutrigenomics.
Can I start using nutrigenomics without a genomic test?
In a word, YES! Here’s why.
You just learned that genomic testing provides the clearest insights into YOUR unique gene blueprint. That being said, human genes respond to food the same way for all of us. The difference between you and I is that you may need more Vitamin D than I do. I may need more calcium than you do. All humans need vitamin D and calcium. Regardless of how much we need individually, the human body uses this same food information in the same way to perform the tasks of being a human! Genomic testing allows us to pinpoint these fine differences and adjust your food approach to maximize the benefits you get from it. The fundamentals of eating and using food don’t change.
Here’s an analogy. Cars use the same basic mechanics to move. Differences in the make and model of a car don’t change the fundamentals of how the engine make the wheels turn! The type of fuel a car needs may change, but its engine still turns the wheels. It’s the same for humans. We all need food and we all use it the same way. Nutrigenomics tells us which foods work with which genes.
Genomic testing allows us to deeply personalize how much of which food based on your unique gene blueprint.
At The Genomic Kitchen I created a toolbox of ingredients using the science of nutrigenomics. These ingredients, which you can find at your local grocery store or market, provide the best information sources for some of your most important genes. By incorporating these ingredients into your diet, you provide information to essential genes that help your body
• Manage stress created by unstable free radicals
• Manage inflammation
• Support the process of detoxification, or removing harmful toxins from your body
• Help you package up, or use fat efficiently
• Support smooth as silk blood sugars.
I call this system of ingredients M.I.S.E. You can read more about the M.I.S.E. system here. M.I.S.E. was created to help people like you and I take advantage of the new science of nutrigenomics without a genomic test. In short, it gets you started with buying, preparing and eating foods that speak the language and flavor of your DNA.
What can I do now?
Now that you understand the basics of nutrigenomics, how food provides information to your genes, you can start to choose and prepare foods that work to optimize your health.
Download our Quickstart Guide.
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