Nutrigenetics is a term used to describe the science of the effect of variation in our genes on how we respond to food.
Every one of us has approximately 24,000 genes in our genetic code (genome), which affect everything about us. How our body responds to daily life and the environment is all encoded by our genes. Small variations in the genetic code called ‘single nucleotide polymorphisms’ or SNPs (pronounced snips) for short, alter how each gene functions. Most genes contain the genetic code for proteins, which have thousands of different functions in our bodies. If the gene has a slightly different code, this means that the protein will also be different, which can impact on the function of the protein. This means that the protein might function more or less efficiently.
Nutrigenetics analyses the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) across your genome and predicts how your body metabolises nutrients in your diet. For example we know that the gene CYP2R1 encodes vitamin D from a precursor into the active form. Certain SNPs within this gene can lower this conversion, leading to lower levels of the active form of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a co-factor for 5% of the entire genome and affects the function of all these genes. Low vitamin D is associated with an increased all cause mortality, and also increased risk of autoimmune diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease, infection, and diabetes. Knowing how you metabolise vitamin D in your body, can help guide how much vitamin D to take, as people with certain patterns of SNPs need considerably higher supplements than most people. Supplementing your diet with the sufficient vitamin D for you could have a profound effect on your long term health and wellbeing.
In addition to genes that encode for the metabolism of vitamin D, also included are the metabolism of vitamins A, B6, B12, C and E. Your risk of lactose intolerance and caffeine sensitivity, combined with predictions of how your body metabolises folate, fat and carbohydrates can be determined.
Risk of Future Disease
From your pattern of SNPs we can understand more about your risk of future disease and wellness such as:
- how your genes can influence your risk for certain health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, some cancers, Alzheimer’s Disease and many others
- how you process vitamins and whether you might need a higher intake through supplementation
- wellness including sleep, weight predisposition, and lactose intolerance
- if you are a carrier for certain health conditions such as cystic fibrosis
- how you are more likely to respond to exercise and types of training
- prediction of your response to sun damage and skin ageing
- your genetic ancestry
- how you are predicted to respond to some medications
- and even your traits such as if you prefer sweet or salty, are more likely to have a bald spot or even hair on your back