These terms have been around for decades, but only recently, scientific evidence has caught up to the theories. So, let’s jump right into Genetix 101. “Nutrigenomics” essentially refers to the study of how the nutrients we take in influence the expression of our genetic framework. Specifically, the specialized fields of bioinformatics, nutrition, molecular biology, genomics, and epidemiology are all fused together in one common scientific examination. Nutrigenomics literally takes nutrition to another level. We can now evaluate your DNA to determine what nutritional factors have the greatest influence on your metabolic pathways – both in a positive and negative manner.
This brings us to diet. There are so many fad diets out there which claim everything under the sun. They come and go and are resurrected under new and improved titles like the era of Saturday Night Fever. Raw-Foods, Atkins, Vegan, Blood-Type, Cleanse, Soup, Grapefruit, HCG, South Beach, yada, yada, yada. The list goes on and on. Why do you think there are so many? Because there is no magic bullet, they don’t work, they are not sustainable and, frankly, many are unhealthy. Unfolding the layers of your DNA allows us to collaborate on a lifestyle plan that gives you a complete understanding of how your body processes nutrients and what you can do to capitalize on that knowledge for a better quality of life.
How does “epigenetics” play into all this? “Epigenetic” literally means “in addition to changes in genetic sequence”. For a quick refresher back to science class, there are over 20,000 genes in our bodies (not to be confused with DNA which has over 3 billion nucleotide bases). Each gene carries a specific sequence of bases that provide instructions on how to make important proteins, which are complex molecules that trigger various biological actions to carry out life functions.
Epigenetics affects how genes are read by cells, and subsequently how they produce proteins. Think of your genes like a light switch with the switch being the DNA. Epigenetics can turn on and off the light, but not change the switch itself. Thus, epigenetic influences are all around us every single day from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed. What you eat, when you eat, how much you sleep, what you exercise, how you exercise, what you breathe, and even aging creates triggers that can turn on or off certain genes.
Now let’s examine the blended fields of nutrigenomics and epigenetics. If we can understand a person’s epigenetics and if we can also peel back the layers of nutritional genetics for each individual, would it be possible to control the epigenetic outline for certain genes? The answer is yes! We are not modifying DNA. Rather, we are reading the code to understand how best to direct genetic expression. In essence, we can give you the greatest biological advantage to lose weight, build muscle, strengthen ligaments and tendons, protect your heart and embrace food with Genetix exclusive line of nutraceuticals in a way that your body will best metabolize. This is personalized nutrition.
There are so many directions we can take these fields to help each one of our patients individually. As a carryover on this topic, we will examine the MTHFR gene variant and DNA methylation in other discussions. Related to such, the American Heart Association recently published a study titled, Nutrigenomics, the Microbiome, and Gene-Environment Interactions: New Directions in Cardiovascular Disease Research, Prevention, and Treatment. This fascinating report was a collaboration between some of the best cardiovascular specialists in the country which specifically identified that dietary components can directly modify gene expression. However, many of the effects of diet and nutritional status on gene expression and regulation are mediated through epigenetic mechanisms. Dysregulation of epigenetic states plays a major role in disease, including cardiovascular disease.
Further, the report stated that there was evidence relating diet, including micronutrients and macronutrients and diet composition, to epigenetic changes that may alter cardiometabolic risk. A classic example of a seemingly direct role of nutrients in determining epigenetic states is the role of “methyl-donor” nutrients such as choline, methionine, betaine, folate, vitamin B12, and zinc. This will specifically tie into another discussion on the MTHFR gene variant as it relates to folic acid, but, most importantly, independent scientific research continues to validate that genetic expression can be modified through diet and supplementation – if you can crack the code…which we can at Genetix!
Even more dynamic than giving you a head start on losing weight, slowing the aging process and generally feeling better, we know that following the right protocol can actually reverse the genetic risk for certain disease. In the AHA report, scientists stated that “if a genetic variant is associated with cardiovascular disease or an intermediate phenotype (e.g., greater risk of hypertension, dyslipidemias, or diabetes mellitus) and it is known that a certain diet can counteract that genetic risk, then one can reason that disease risk could be reduced through prescription of a personalized diet.”
The difference is that we have been operating blind for all these years. Perhaps we try to eat healthy, exercise and make smart choices, but what do we really know about how this is benefitting our bodies for the long-term? The simple answer is we don’t. But now we can. The decision is up to you.