Nutrigenomics - Advancing Personalized Medicine - Part 1
As people age, diet and lifestyle play more prominent roles in the development of diseases than do genetics. The study of nutrigenomics is helping us visualize and understand the subtle, yet the profound connection between our genetic blueprint and the food and nutrients we put into our bodies.
A long history
As far back as 400 B.C., it is believed that Hippocrates said to physicians: ‘Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal your patient with food.’ Today, Dr. Mark Hyman says, “Food is the code that programs your biology. You can literally upgrade or downgrade your biological software with what you choose to eat.” Every bite you eat is either fighting disease or feeding it.
It has long been known that individuals can differ in their requirements for a given nutrient. Back in 1956, Dr. Roger Williams coined the phrase and wrote the book, Biochemical Individuality, which illustrated how it “related to differing nutritional needs for optimal function among different people. He pointed out that even identical twins could be different in their needs for optimal function based upon the fact that they developed in different environments in utero. Although identical twins share the same genes, their differing nutrition and developmental environments can result in different expression of the genes as they grow older.”
When Williams’ book was republished in 1988, Dr. Jeffrey Bland, wrote in the forward, “. . . Dr. Williams [recognized] that nutritional status can influence the expression of genetic characteristics. Once again Dr. Williams foresaw this important concept in Biochemical Individuality and set in motion research and discoveries . . . that have transformed medicine.”
Some basic definitions
Genetics is the study of heredity and inherited characteristics. It often assesses single genes within congenital disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, etc.
The National Human Genome Research Institute defines genomics as, “the study of all of a person’s genes (the genome), including interactions of those genes with each other and with the person’s environment.”
According to Nature Research, 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.”
Why is this important?
We’re all aware that specialized supplements, natural products, and a healthy diet have been used over the years and have been effective for many people. What if you could find out which nutrients, from food and/or supplements, would be specifically indicated for you based on your genes? Wouldn’t that be valuable information to have?
On page 102 in my book, The Longevity Equation, I raise the point that there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Each person has a complex variation of genes that influence which diet is optimal to stay lean, feel energized, and avoid disease. It’s important to understand that diet and lifestyle choices have a significant impact on the way your genes function. While your genes themselves won’t change, which ones are activated and deactivated can change. The study of nutrigenomics focuses on the way genes and nutrition affect one another.
“For instance, with the variant 164A>C of the CYP1A2 gene, often, a person will have a high sensitivity to caffeine, which can lead to high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease. While most people won’t have a problem with caffeine, people with this gene will want to avoid it at all costs . . .
Since different diets produce different results for everyone, it’s vital that you determine the optimal diet for your specific biology. The only way to do this is to gain insight into what’s happening in your genetic coding. The best way to gain insight into your genetic coding is to do a genetic test.
In order for treatment to be specific and personalized, The Institute for Human Optimization looks at the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP – pronounced ‘snip’) within a person’s genome. A SNP is a DNA sequence variation that occurs when a single nucleotide (the building blocks of DNA) in the genome sequence is altered. SNPs do not cause disease, but they can help determine the likelihood that someone may develop a certain illness. SNPs largely influence our biochemical individuality, which is central to the practice of precision functional medicine. We assess the pattern analysis of a multitude of different SNPs.
Something like 99.6% of the human genome is identical in all people. This is true of everyone, regardless of race or heritage. However, it is at the SNP location that variation does take place. SNPs only make up a tiny portion of the genome (0.4%) but because the genome is so enormous, this equals over 12 million locations. It’s the differences at these SNP locations that make each of us unique.
There are many existing and new apps that measure single SNPs and make generalized recommendations, but they’re not personalized to the level that they should be. They are limited in what they can provide to customers legally, and their reporting is incomplete and broad.
Next week we'll discuss how my team and I can help you.
But for now... Happy Holidays!
To your longevity,
Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Advisor, Longevity Insider HQ
*Today's content was provided by the Institute for Human Optmization (www.ifho.org).