Nutrigenomic Profiles – How Important Are They?

What is Nutrigenomics?

Nutrigenomics is the study of the effects of food and food constituents on gene expression, and how genetic variations affect the nutritional environment. It focuses on understanding the interaction between nutrients and other dietary bioactives with the genome at the molecular level, to understand how specific nutrients or dietary regimes may affect human health.

How does it work in practice?

Different genetic testing labs offer various nutrigenomic profiles to test gene variants that may be precursors to lifestyle diseases. Most genetic profiles will include genes related to (among other things) cholesterol metabolism, methylation, detoxification, inflammation, insulin sensitivity and oxidative stress.

What do the results mean?

The truth of the matter is that unless your results are interpreted for “you” they mean nothing. My biggest issue with nutrigenomic testing is that results are often interpreted without taking the actual personal into consideration. Whilst your genetic profile may indicate where your greatest risk areas are, they are not absolute determinants of risk. It is impossible to interpret results without some indication of what is going on, with a particular person, at a particular moment in time. Nutrigenomic test results must be interpreted taking into consideration medical history, current symptoms, pathology results (regular blood tests) as well as functional tests.

Functional testing will give a better indication of whether your variants in oxidative stress pathways (for example) are, at this point, increasing your risk of oxidative stress. Or, whether your diet and lifestyle up until this point, have positively supported a risky pathway.

Alternatively, if you suffer from a disease like depression, then you will want to use your nutrigenomic test results to help identify pathways (something like methylation) that may be aggravating the disease process.

In conclusion

The application of nutrigenomics in practice is powerful but not on its own. It’s for this reason that I will never send someone for nutrigenomic testing without seeing them for a full consultation beforehand to determine what the best test may (or may not) be.