Have you heard? You can now get your genes tested to find out what nutritional plan best suits your DNA. And no, it’s not like the blood type diet!
It’s nutrigenetics. Scientifically researched genetic testing. Recent advances have now made genetic testing available to the public. It helps us understand how some people on a high fat diet have no problem with their cholesterol while in others it goes through the roof.
So no, Banting is not for everyone. It really comes down to your unique genetic make-up and nutrigenetics shows us why individuals respond differently to the same nutrients.
This information is incredibly useful in using nutrigenomics to our benefit. This science uses bioactive components in food to “turn” on or off certain genes, known as gene expression.
Although you cannot alter your genes, you can have an impact on how they’re expressed, which ultimately has a beneficial effect on processes in the body.
This is particularly exciting as it allows us to create accurate, personalised nutrition plans using these functional foods.
There have been numerous studies that show how macronutrients, micronutrients and natural bioactive components (e.g. phytochemicals such as flavonoids and carotenoids) regulate gene expression.
Your genes are responsible for every cellular process within the body, which means that gene expression influences our cellular defence processes.
These are methylation (DNA repair process), detoxification, energy production, redox status (of which oxidation is a part) and inflammation.
So let’s take a step back – what are they actually testing? Your DNA is made up of a double strand helix joined by complimentary base pairs.
You receive 50% of your genes from each parent and when your DNA is replicated, variants occur. This means that there is not a different single base pair than there was originally.
These are called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) or gene variants. Then how do bioactive components actually influence genes?
In nutrigenomics, nutrients act like signals and are able to communicate with specific cells within the body. Once a nutrient interacts with the system, it alters gene expression.
Simply put, what you eat directly influences the genetic message your body receives. Let’s look at practical examples of how these bioactive components in food can influence our genes.
The bioactive phytochemical, sulforaphane, found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, is essential in assisting your detoxification process.
Certain genes can be “turned” on (upregulated) by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are chemicals released from burning coal, oil, gasoline, tobacco or charcoal.
This would be a case where gene expression can increase the risk for certain diseases through nutrition. Your DNA results will show exactly which gene variants exist and in turn highlight which cellular defence processes require extra support through nutrition and lifestyle.
The DNA test provides you with a clear roadmap of all your cellular pathways to identify obstacles (gene variants).
By knowing which nutrients or lifestyle interventions are specific to your gene set, each person will know which changes to implement.
So how do I get this DNA test? A quick cheek swab sample is sent to a genetic laboratory where your genes are analysed.
These genes are low penetrance genes, which means you can have an effect on their outcome. For example, some of your genetic results might indicate that you’re at higher risk for certain cancers.
It doesn’t mean you’re going to get cancer, but rather that you’re at higher risk. The key here is to use this intelligent science.
Nutrigenomics gives us the advantage of knowing which dietary interventions and lifestyle changes can be employed to help prevent disease and ensure optimal health.
Once you receive the report you’ll have valuable knowledge about how you can improve your health.
Make sure that whoever is doing the DNA test and interpretation of the results is reputable. This will ensure you get the best type of individualised treatment plan.
Rochez O’Grady of Munchwize, which focuses on nutrigenomics and mindful eating, is a registered dietitian and has a holistic approach to helping individuals achieve optimal health and behaviour change.
She says: “I value keeping a balance in my life. When helping others to do the same it’s really rewarding. I love healthy food and coming up with great new recipes.
“I enjoy being outdoors and keeping a routine with exercise really works. All this together with having great friends and having fun keep me happy.” For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org