In order to ensure more people are maintaining a healthy diet, general guidelines are often given to the population as a whole. But those guidelines fail to take into account the individual needs of those with unique lifestyles and varying genetic makeups.
Are high performance athletes better off on a vegan diet or meat based one? The answer may lie in their genes. Imagine being able to offer Olympic athletes hyper-personalized diets so that they can get the most out of their own minds and bodies, in-turn achieving a split second advantage.
Nutrigenomics studies the relationship between genes, nutrition and health, and moves us away from a mass population based approach, to a more personalized approach based on an individual’s genetic factors. If you have a specific variant, that may dictate the doses of vitamins you need or another specific intervention to your diet that could help to improve your overall health.
Of course, there are limits to what we can do at the individual level. The gut/brain axis is poorly understood, for instance, though we now know that the microbiota present in our gastrointestinal system plays a major role in breaking down important nutrients and contributes to our emotional well-being. Genetic variations and our dietary behaviors (like the consumption of high sugar and high fats) have an impact on these tens of trillions of microorganisms. It’s estimated that there are anywhere between 300 to 1000 different species of bacteria that aid our digestion process. We have simply yet to fully understand the role they play in epigenetics and nutrigenomics.
Adding to this complexity is consumer behavior. Most often our choices aren’t rational and we would choose something that tastes better over a food that is recommended to be healthy for you. With Gini Lens, we hope to solve a part of this by helping users identify foods they like that also meet the critical requirements of their body based on thier genetic predispositions.
Research is highlighting how populations in different regions of the world have evolved for dietary habits with different proportions of meat and vegetables. Should we be eating food grown locally? Do they have specific phytochemicals that are suitable for individuals in our environment?
These are questions that we still don’t have answers to. Whatever the case may be, the fledgling realms of nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics show great promise. They will enable physicians and practitioners of functional medicine to hyper-personalize dietary recommendations and exercise routines.
Every individual is different and health counseling based on nutrigenetic analysis has been shown to be much more successful than conventional diets that may be a hit or miss for a specific individual.
Adopting nutrigenomics on a widespread scale can have a domino effect on our society. We have already established that micro and macronutrient components in food can regulate gene expression patterns. There is ample evidence now that genes that are activated or deactivated based on diet may play a role in the initiation, advancement, and progression of chronic diseases.
So the path to eliminating some of the chronic diseases that plague us right now, from obesity to type 2 diabetes, may well lie within our diet.