One thing for certain….it’s quite a mouthful! Taking a step back, let’s be sure we know what genomics is first. Genomics is the science that identifies each of our genes and tells us what exactly they do in the human body. Genes affect everything about us. They influence the color of our eyes to our ability to run a marathon to our propensity to develop cancer.
Now…you guessed it, Nutrigenomics involves nutrition…..it’s the science behind how food and nutrients affect the way genes function. YES! What you eat can affect how well your genes are working.
So there’s a possibility that my genes aren’t working well??? Yes, we’ll get to that in just a minute….but first…
What Do Genes Do?
In case you’re not sure exactly what genes do, they make proteins that create enzymes in your body. Enzymes control all the different functions that go on in the human body. The nutrients in food have an impact on your genes which influence a variety of bodily functions. Some include how strong your bones are; how well your immune system is working; how susceptible you may be to heart disease or cancer; just about anything you can think of!
How Well do Your Genes Function?
Remember back in school, there were some kids who studied and paid attention in class and aced everything…..then there were those slacker kids who didn’t do much work – maybe just got by and didn’t amount to much. Well, our genes are sort of similar. We have genes that function in tip-top shape, and others are like slackers. Those slacker genes have a slight error in their makeup. They aren’t a mutation but they are a variation from the tip-top A+ genes.
In scientific terms, the slackers are called single nucleotide polymorphisms (what a mouthful!) or SNP (pronounced snip) for short. In a gene that has a SNP, the order of the molecules in the gene is inverted, similar to a misspelling. Think: the word country being spelled coutnyr. This can make a difference in how the gene works. Sometimes, genes with a SNP don’t make enough of the enzymes that we need to function optimally.
It’s this variation that a nutrigenomic test can identify and give us clues as to what may make one person’s nutritional needs different from another person’s. AMAZING!!
Putting Nutrition and Genes Together
Knowing your genomics influences your individual nutritional requirements. While we have RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowances) for vitamins and minerals to prevent deficiencies for most people, YOUR unique needs for optimal health can vary quite a bit. When a gene has a SNP, oftentimes a certain nutrient can either help the gene to function better or as “work-around” when you may not have enough of a certain enzyme. Wouldn’t it be nice to know this information about yourself? Nutrigenomics zeroes into the type, amount and form of nutrients that are optimal for you (spoiler alert: some forms of a vitamin or mineral can cause problems in certain people!) Are you beginning to understand a bit about the science behind how food and nutrients affect the way genes function? Nutrigenomics personalizes the science of genes and nutrition for you.
Nutrigenetics: More on The Science of Nutrients, Food, and Genes
Nutrigenetics takes into account how your specific genetic makeup responds to nutrients. Have you ever wondered why one style of eating, say veganism, works well for one person but not so much for another? It’s all in the genes.
For some folks, their gene slacks off on making the enzyme that helps the body convert the plant form of Omega-3 to the usable form by the body. Those people can only get it by eating fish. If they are vegan, that lifestyle may not be optimal for them based on their genes. That’s just one example…..there are many more.
Knowing your genetic makeup can help to determine your unique nutritional requirements to stay healthy. It can also provide more information as to the most effective eating style for you.
Nutritional science is moving far, far away from a one-size-fits-all approach and more toward a completely individualized and personalized tactic.
You may be thinking, what else can I learn from knowing my genomics?
Here Are the TOP 5 THINGS You Can Learn From a Genomics Test
1) What style of eating is best suited for your genes?
How do you know which diet is right for you? The answer truly depends on your gene variants. For example, keto diets are all the rage. For some people, saturated fat (which keto tends to be high in) causes big problems such as abdominal weight gain, insulin resistance (leading to diabetes), and cardiovascular disease, while for others, it’s perfectly fine. The same holds for vegan diets. There are SNPs involved in other nutrients that make vegan diets problematic for certain individuals.
2) What form of nutrients your body needs
Are you taking a variety of supplements, but not sure if they are right for you or if you even need them? Certain snps make it harder for our body to use certain forms of vitamins- folic acid is one example. Other nutrients require our body to convert them to an active form. Specific genes and enzymes are required for this process – if you have a snp on one of these genes, your body needs the active form which is not always what you may be consuming in food or taking in a supplement. A genomic test can shed light and direct you to the most usable forms for your body chemistry.
3) What exercise is most effective for your body?
Have you ever tried an exercise regime and just not been able to stick with it? Maybe it was the wrong exercise for your genotype! Certain genes predispose us to be better at strength and power activities while others are better suited for endurance. We all know how important exercise is to good health – why not optimize your efforts based on your genomics!
4) How vulnerable you are to toxins in the environment?
Although your skin, liver, and kidneys are the main organs responsible for ridding your body of the many toxic substances in the environment, not everyone’s system works in tip-top shape. There are gene SNPs that may cause some of us to not be able to clear toxins out from the body as well as others. Now, just because we have certain SNPs doesn’t doom us to think we are overrun with toxicity. Testing other biomarkers or identifiers in the blood or urine can give us a more complete picture as to how our bodies are faring.
5) How to keep your immune system functioning optimally.
A poorly functioning immune system opens us up to be more vulnerable to bacteria, viruses and possibly cancer. Knowing if your body can make the immune cells necessary to keep you well is a benefit from learning about your genomics. Specific foods to support immunity will be recommended by a clinician experienced in reading your genomics report!
Where to Start Learning About Your Genomics
As I’m sure you’ve gathered, nutrigenomics can be quite an involved area! Additionally, the genes in our bodies work together – synergistically. So, the most beneficial approach is one that takes into account the fact that genes, the proteins, and enzymes they produce are all part of the systems in your body. Just like the gears of a machine – one gear turns the next, which affects a third and so on. This is how the systems in your body work. One system affects another. Just looking at individual genes and SNPs totally misses the point. Taking your genes and systems with which they work into consideration is where the benefit truly lies.
Be sure to employ a clinician who is knowledgeable in reading and interpreting genomic reports – it’s vital to your well-being! They can interpret and translate the science of how food and nutrients affect how your genes function and make specific recommendations, tailored to you.
By now, we’re sure you realize that nutrigenomics has opened the door to personalized nutrition. One-size-fits-all approaches don’t work because we are all different!