May 27, 2019 11:56 AM EDT
Most people have a basic understanding of genetics. The genetics are inherited from your parents and their DNA are combined to create your genetic makeup. This includes your eye color, height and even complex traits such as having a risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and all aspects of metabolism.
The Human Genome Project, an international collaboration that has been ongoing for 13-years, has mapped out all of the genes in humans and they have discovered around 50,000 variances or differences in the individual DNA code in our genetic code that can make a difference in how your body functions.
What a lot of people may not realize is that there are significant connections between your genes, your diet, and your surroundings. With the diet being one of the most potentially modifiable and basic components of your environment.
The DNA Diet is then introduced. The DNA Diet offers a digital weight-loss program that is based on a personalized diet and lifestyle recommendations depending on the result of your DNA. This diet aims to support the behavioral changes that are needed for the successful use of a DNA-based diet. But whether the specific genetic variants the company uses can really help to improve weight loss beyond the personalized recommendations has not been thoroughly investigated.
A lot of companies are also using DNA analysis to make a personalized supplement recommendation. Although this area holds promise, the science is not strong enough, nor has it been studied enough to support most of the recommendations.
One promising application of nutrigenetics is medical foods, which, unlike supplements, are overseen by the Food and Drug Administration or the FDA, and must be prescribed by a health care practitioner. Dr. Steve Zeisel, the director of the Nutrition Research Institute at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and one of the leading choline researchers in the world, founded a company called SNP Therapeutics. SNP Therapeutics aims to make medical foods that are based on genetic testing and can identify roadblocks in metabolism and provide the missing nutrients to go around these blocks.
While Zeisel advocates for the traditional healthy, well-balanced diet and recommends it to everyone, he feels that medical foods can play an important role in improving long-term compliance with gene-guided nutrition recommendations.
The field of nutrigenetics is still in its early days, and there are still a lot of things to be learned about it, but experts agree that even though evidence will continue to grow over the next few years, we have enough good evidence to make it useful now.
Utilizing the genetic information effectively to guide more precise individual nutrition recommendations needed far more than just testing random genetic variants and should be undertaken by a trained health-care professional.
The health care provider should know how to incorporate and act on genetic information as one of the several precision nutrition-related factors, including the standard blood tests, gut microbiome, and health risk assessment, and newer methods of assessing nutrient metabolism.
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