Most of the time you hear people say " you are what you eat" especially when it comes to the matter of gaining weight or losing weight. But, one reason certain eating ideas work for one person but not another may have to do with our genetics. Yeah, there is an interplay between food, health, and our genome. A fascinating field is known as Nutrigenomics( Noo-trih-the-NOH-mix).
WHAT IS NUTRIGENOMICS?
Nutrigenomics, coined from "Nutrition" and "Genomics" is the study of how our genomes respond to nutrition.
Nutrition as we know is a biochemical and physiological process by which organisms assimilate food to enable them to grow, reproduce and maintain themselves.
On the other hand, a genome is the complete genetic makeup of organisms. So, genomics is the study of the complete set of DNA, it's structure, function, evolution, mapping, and editing.
Again, health "according to the World Health Organization, is "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity"
Clearly from the introduction, you can see that diet could affect the genes as well as genes affecting the phenotype. For example, mutations can be a result of protein misfolding, or mistakes from the transcription process.
So, Nutrigenomics heightens the idea about the mechanisms by which nutrition affects the metabolic pathways underlying the balance among all the body systems needed for the body to function.
So let's delve into the future nutrigenomics holds.
THE HISTORY OF NUTRIGENOMICS.
Nutrigenomics feels like a new topic but l guess genetics ring a bell. Genetics has been studied since the 1800s by Gregor Mendel who is now the Father of Genetics. In summary of his work, he discovers the laws of inheritance using pea plants. In the same way, nutrition was discovered by Antoine Lavoisier in the 1770s, who studied the concept of metabolism, the transfer of food and oxygen into heat and water in the body, creating energy. However, studies have been done on how diet could be used to prevent and treat chronic diseases. But it wasn’t until quite recently that these two fields of study merged.
THE EARLY NUTRIGENOMICS; HOW IT CAME ABOUT.
Ever heard of lactose intolerance? Or you've heard a friend say " l mostly get diarrhea when l take milk" well, it's not surprising to be bloated after consuming a dairy product but the mechanism behind your bloating is what makes nutrigenomics alive.
Years ago, scientists discovered the interaction between lactose and a gene named the "gene for lactose intolerance". It was discovered that lactase deficiency is likely genetic and a gene that causes lactose tolerance was identified.
Lactose intolerance is the difficulty in digesting lactose-a sugar found in milk or any other milk products. It happens when an enzyme called lactase is low to digest the lactose. Lactose intolerance can cause an upset stomach, bloating, abdominal pain, gas, and diarrhea after consuming dairy products such as milk, cheese, and ice cream. Mind you, lactose intolerance is different from milk allergy. Actually, milk allergy is a typical response of the immune system to milk or any milk product.
GENETICS OF LACTOSE TOLERANCE.
The ability to digest milk products is inherited from our parents. Lactose intolerance is a recessive disorder. And for a recessive disorder to express, both copies of the gene, called alleles, have to be identical. Individuals who have a cytosine (C) residue on both alleles close to the lactase gene do not produce lactase in adulthood and are lactose intolerant. This reaction to particular nutrients and these interactions can encounter specific disease states which are common consequences of nutrigenetics.
One may ask what happened to the adults, who can digest lactose.
This is what happens, a single point mutation in the DNA near the lactase gene changes the cytosine (C) nucleotide to a thymine (T). Individuals who have the thymine (T) nucleotide are lactose tolerant and can digest milk products in adulthood.
From 1990 to 2003, researchers around the world took part in the Human Genome Project, which determined the sequence of the human genome and the DNA that it contains. This laid the groundwork for modern nutrigenomics. Researchers began taking a closer look at genetic variants, and testing how certain nutrients and diets may interact with them. However, all humans are 99.9% identical at the gene sequence level.
But polymorphisms can differentiate the dietary requirement of each individual. Generally, 0.1% variations in sequence produce differences in phenotype. These variations control individuals' responses differently even with food consumption. And the most common type of polymorphism is SNP, the single-nucleotide polymorphism, which is the single replacement of cytosine in the genome as explained in the lactose tolerance.
Other than the above variations, structural variations deletions, inversions, insertions, and duplications in chromosomes can be observed rarely in organisms that can have nutrient metabolism pathways.
APPLICATION OF NUTRIGENOMICS.
Nutrigenomics is applicable all over the world including in countries like Sri Lanka, the United States, Italy, and Spain as in functional foods applications such as lactose-free dairy products, pharmaceutical industries, and cosmetic industries.
In pharmaceuticals, for instance, Chronic diseases and various cancer types can be prevented or at least limited by the ingestion of balance and sensible nutrition.
Again, gluten-free diets for celiac diseases and pro-biotics for lactose intolerance individuals have been developed in the food industry as a result of nutrigenetics.
Another application of nutrigenomics is dermagenetics - the testing for selected genetic mutations related to skin health resulting in skin creams.
ADVANTAGES OF NUTRIGENOMICS
Nutrigenomics expects to achieve more effective individual dietary intervention strategies aimed at limiting disease, improving the quality of life, and managing healthful aging.
So, the main advantages of this nutrigenomics include improvement of health and prevention of diseases through modified diet and lifestyle procedures and beneficial control of chronic diseases.
DISADVANTAGES OF NUTRIGENOMICS.
The complicated nature of food and polygenic diseases like diabetes, and cancer make it hard to find out solutions to arising issues. The huge cost involved in these technologies leads to restrictions for developing countries. Especially, the requirement for sophisticated research studies limits the application of these needy technologies in developing countries like Ghana.
IS THERE A FUTURE CHALLENGE FOR NUTRIGENOMICS?
The nutrigenomic applications will lead to both short-term and long-term benefits to human health by uncovering novel nutrient-gene interactions, promoting new diagnostic tests for adverse responses to diets, and managing populations with particular nutrient requirements.
Nutrigenomics is a field that is still developing and It will lead us to take the foods which our DNA likes. Also, nutritional genomics has vast potential to improve the fate of dietary actions. So much attention is needed to stabilize the field of nutrigenomics, especially in Ghana.
1."Importance of nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics in food Science - MedCrave online" Retrieved from https://medcraveonline.com/MOJFPT/importance-of-nutrigenomics-and-nutrigenetics-in-food-science.html
2. "DNA Insights: The History of Nutrigenomics - The Secret Ingredient" Retrieved from https://loseitblog.com/2019/03/04/dna-insights-the-history-of-nutrigenomics/amp/
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