Overwhelmed by food choices and fad diets? Wondering how – or if – your food choices can decrease your risk for chronic disease? Are you making all of the “right” choices regarding diet, physical activity, and lifestyle habits, yet not seeing the results you’re looking for?
In the future, you may be able to know what foods work best for you without playing a continual guessing game. There’s an increasing interest in learning how genes interact with the food and beverages we eat and drink, an area of research called nutrigenomics. Clinical and randomized trials all over the world are investigating how diet affects our genes, and vice versa. Someday soon, we might even be able to predict our body’s response to certain foods before we eat them, Ali Webster, PhD, RD, explains.
Nutrigenomics is a natural component of personalized nutrition, which focuses on developing eating patterns and behaviors customized to an individual’s specific needs. Personalized nutrition is also making its way into the tech world: the commercialization of individualized nutrition has led to the startup of several companies that will analyze your DNA in exchange for upwards of a hundred dollars and a sample of your saliva. But are we ready for that?
Ali argues that the research isn’t yet strong enough for nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition to be applied to most patient populations. She goes on to say that most health professionals have not learned the practical applications of nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition in their training. However, this could change as the use of genetic information in guiding health decisions becomes more mainstream.
While these concepts are certainly exciting, we still can’t forget the importance of lifestyle and environment behaviors. Everything from exercise to sleep patterns to gender to our gut microbiome may influence our response to food and drink, Webster adds.
Though there’s a need for further research, nutrigenomics has strong potential to become an important part of assessing and improving our health. The end goals are to be extremely specific to each individual’s needs and to use personalization to tap into individual motivation toward food choices, which is often one of the best indicators for sustaining a healthy dietary pattern.
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