The Science of Personal Genetics - Simple DNA Sample Can Explain Our Genetically-programmed Nutrient Requirements & Responses to Food
January 27, 2009
Why do so many diets, supplements, and health support plans fail? It’s written in our genes.
Most of us have tried different diets, nutritional supplements, and exercise plans that worked for some friend or family member, but did not work the same way for us.
That’s because each of us has a unique genetic makeup that influences our physical characteristics and health support needs. Hundreds of genetic variations act to influence the dietary guidelines, nutrients, and physical activities that will best suit any given individual.
Now an analysis of any person’s DNA can identify many of those unique needs - based on discoveries from the Human Genome Project, plus an explosion of genomic and nutrition research in the scientific literature, and sophisticated database management programs that can pull it all together.
Genes and Your Health – the Basics
…Genes are regions along the DNA molecule (contained in every cell except red corpuscles) that contain information critical to the development and operation of the body. Each gene has a set of instructions. The instructions are in code form and must be translated into proteins that carry out the large number of activities that are essential for life.
Some of the proteins are enzymes that assemble or disassemble large molecules or transport food molecules into the body, or carry oxygen through the bloodstream. You get the picture - every essential life activity involves proteins….
…If you compare two individuals, they'll have the same genes, but the DNA sequence of any given gene is likely to be slightly different…
Even minor gene variants can affect the overall functioning of the body.
The impact isn't enough to cause a serious disease but it's definitely enough to impose different requirements on the individual. What's important in the context of personal genetics is:
• How a change affects an individual's nutritional requirements
• Or, the flip side, how an individual responds to components in food.
The first part of this equation involves changes to proteins that are closely involved in using nutrients in food.
For example, a gene may code for an enzyme that requires the B vitamin folate [B-9]. A variation in this gene (i.e., a gene variant) contains a nucleotide change in a position along the DNA that ends up changing the structure of its protein product, which is an enzyme.
In this case the structural change affects the ability of the enzyme to bind folate and thereby carry out its critical role in the cells. The structural change results in poor binding of the vitamin.
Luckily, supplying a high concentration of this vitamin overcomes the problem. The structural change handicaps the enzyme and therefore the cells and ultimately the individual, but it's a handicap, not a lethal event. By increasing the amount of the particular vitamin in the diet, the enzyme works well and the individual is healthy.
However, if the individual with this gene variant does not get sufficient folate, they are at higher risk for developing health problems because poor function of this enzyme has been associated with an increased risk of developing colon cancer, heart disease, and neural tube defects in infants.
There are many, many examples in personal genetics of gene variants that result in the potential for health problems if not recognized and compensated for by altering our diet and lifestyle choices.
Personal genetics has another equally important focus, and that's on how dietary and other lifestyle factors influence how genes express their information.
For example, an individual may have a gene variant that produces a protein that promotes chronic inflammation throughout the body. If this is not detected, and is allowed to proceed unchecked, the individual may be at risk for increased susceptibility to a number of diseases known to be associated with chronic inflammation. Examples are:
• Heart disease,
• And inflammatory bowel disorders…to name just a few.
From personal genetics research, though, we know that components in food have the power to interact with the genetic material and alter the expression of a number of genes. In this case, omega-3 fats (e.g., fish oil) can decrease the expression of pro-inflammatory genes and help this individual reduce his or her risk of developing chronic inflammation and the diseases known to be associated with this state.
Similarly, a gene variant may decrease our ability to dismantle a potentially harmful environmental toxin (e.g., tobacco smoke, pesticides).
This would put us at risk for the damage that such toxins can do to our health. Individuals with such variants have been found to benefit from foods that contain glucosinolates found in members of the cabbage family of vegetables.
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Source: Excerpted with permission from the article "Gene Basics," at
www.mycellf.com, © 2007, Sciona Inc. All rights reserved.
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is generic and is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any illness, condition, or disease.
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