The increasing recognition by the scientific community, that nutrients have the ability to interact, modify and influence our biological functions, has prompted this most recent development in the field of nutrition. This field of exploration into human health has two primary branches – nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics – both of which promise much.
Nutrigenomics is the study of the ‘effects’ of foods and their constituents on gene expression. This fascinating discipline has focused its research on the molecular interaction between nutrients, food and the genome. Using systems biology, a map is developing around how the body responds and reacts at the genetic level to food and specific nutrients. We’ve learned how by varying food and nutrient intake, those genes which when ‘activated’, make the individual more vulnerable to specific diseases, can in fact be ‘switched off’. In other words our food and nutrient intake influences the biological expression of our cells. Our foods are said to have a ‘dietary signature’ and this dietary signature affects the metabolic pathways and also the body’s state of balance.
Running parallel to this field of research is neutrigenetics, which is looking at the ‘single gene/single food compound’ relationship. Basically, nutrigenetics is concerned with why one food, which may be beneficial for one person can cause harm to another.
One of the primary focuses of this discipline is to identify genetic susceptibility to diseases in order to offer what is in some quarters being called ‘personalised disease prevention advice’, which is offered based on the individual’s genetic make up. Due to the great advances in genetic research, nutrigeneticists, via cheek swab or blood analysis, acquire the necessary DNA and through careful study and analysis of the genetic data, possible ‘risk’ genes are identified. Essentially, the researchers are looking for either positive or negative correlations between the risk genes and the various nutritional factors, in order that appropriate ‘patient specific’ treatment strategies can be devised.
In this, the first of Jack’s presentations, he’s taken the ‘gobbledegook’ and some of the jargon out of this life-changing topic and made it more accessible, not just for our younger audience, but for anyone coming to this subject anew. We hope you’ll enjoy what he’s done… we certainly have.