An advancement (A Breakthrough) in Nutritional Sciences
For decades now food scientists, medical researchers and health practitioners have made the observation that we respond differently to food and by extension nutrients. The range of responses of individuals to pharmaceuticals and supplements has also not escaped the attention researchers and practitioners.
There have been discussions in different forums and media about nutrition at a cellular level. This has begun to influence the consumer’s choice of quality nutrition and more and more they are reading the nutritional labels on products. We didn’t stop there at all but delve into how our bodies assimilate nutrients at the molecular and mitochondrial levels of cells. Cells make up tissues and differentiated tissue give rise to the specific characteristics and functions of our bodies’ organs.
It is indeed exciting times when we have research scientists who have put the spot light on gene expression and how genetically, chemicals including nutrients can elicit a response which may be beneficial or detrimental to human health. Research of this nature is called nutrigenomics. In this review, we present a brief overview of current research findings in nutrigenomics, implications for future opportunities, and a few challenges or limitations of the present research.
So, what is nutrigenomics also referred to as nutritional genomics? It is an emerging field of scientific study which examines the interaction of nutrients and genes. Nutrigenomics investigate how the foods we eat interact with our genes to affect our individual health. The current body of research has the potential to change the clinical outcome for the prevention and control of many chronic diseases. This type of research draws on our knowledge of health, diet and genomics.
Diet related illnesses
The link between some chronic diseases and diet has long since been established. It is only in the last few decades that we have begun the hypothesize on the role of the human genome. Nutritional genomics is important in the research on nutrient-related conditions and diseases. Several of the body’s systems can be affected by diet-related diseases. The condition or disease can vary from mild to severe symptoms. Some of these conditions and diseases may include nutrient deficiencies (and excesses), eating disorders, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and some cancers.
It has also been noted that there is an association between aging and the development of diet-related diseases especially hypertension, heart disease osteoporosis and again some cancers.
Genetic predispositions to illnesses
Research in the area of pharmacology, pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenetics is ongoing to answer the research question “why we respond differently to certain drugs?” Ethnicity and gene pools have partially answer the research question. With respect to the nutrients we take in through our diets or the supplements we take, our genes can cause us to respond differently from others.
Certain genes can affect the rate of absorption, distribution, metabolism, or excretion of almost everything we consume. And these differences can result in extreme variability in how we respond.
There is the association of different types of tissue and organ-specific effects of bioactive dietary components include transcriptome (gene-expression patterns); epigenome (organization of the chromatin); proteome (protein-expression patterns, including post-translational modifications) as well as metabolome (metabolite profiles).
Nutrigenomics will enhance our understanding of how nutrition influences homeostatic control and metabolic pathways. In the early phases of diet-related disease this regulation appears to be derailed to the extent to which specific sensitizing genotypes contribute to a specific diseases or condition.
There is a growing body of research which suggests nutrigenomics will provide evidence-based dietary intervention strategies for re-establishing optimal health and fitness and for preventing and controlling diet-related disease.
Translating the Research into Practice
Let’s take a look at two diet-related gastrointestinal conditions which are chronic and distressing for patients. In both cases the patient must be empowered to understand their own food sensitivities and food intolerance to certain types of food, nutrients spices etc.
Nutritional genomics gives a lot of hope in the better management of these diseases. The first one is:
Celiac disease affects your small intestine and is a diet related disease. Information put out by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, explains that celiac disease is caused primarily by a gluten intolerance that interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. Gluten is a protein found mainly in wheat, barley and rye. It may also be found in consumer products such as medicines, vitamins and lip balms. Diarrhea is the most common symptom associated with celiac disease. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain, abdominal bloating, irritability, depression, anemia (low blood count), upset stomach, joint pain, muscle cramps, skin rash and mouth sores. The NIDDK estimates more than 2 million Americans have celiac disease. Celiac disease affects people all over the world.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is also diet-related disease. The disease results in significant abdominal discomfort when smooth muscle in your large intestine contracts slower or faster than normal. The University of Maryland Medical Center, states that between 10 and 20 percent of people in the United States experience irritable bowel syndrome at some point in their lives Twice as many women as men are affected by this disease. Among the signs and symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome are abdominal pain, abdominal bloating, cramping, gassiness, episodic diarrhea and constipation. According to
the UMMC, diet plays a significant role in irritable bowel syndrome. Patients are counselled to avoid fatty foods, artificial sweeteners, chemical additives, red meat, dairy products, chocolate, alcohol, carbonated beverages and any food that contains gluten may cause or contribute to irritable bowel syndrome.
According to Dr Ahmed Al Sohemy common variations found throughout the human genome explain individual differences in response to dietary intake. For example, this area of research explains why some people can eat a high fat diet and have no problem with their cholesterol levels while others experience the exact opposite response. He also opined that nutritional genomics investigate how nutrients and bioactive components in food turn on or off certain genes these genes impacting important metabolic and physiologic processes in the body. He gives as an example compounds found in broccoli that switch on a specific gene that helps the body detoxify some of the harmful chemicals we’re sometimes exposed to. This is not the experience of some individuals.
Limitations of Research
This review explores various areas of nutrition and food sciences in which transcriptome‐, proteome‐ and metabolome‐analyses have been applied in human intervention studies, including nutrigenetics aspects and discusses the advantages and limitations of the methodologies. Despite the power of the profiling techniques to generate huge data sets, a critical assessment of the study outcomes emphasizes the current constraints in data interpretation, including huge knowledge gaps, the need for improved study designs and more comprehensive phenotyping of volunteers before selection for study participation. In this respect, nutrigenomics faces the same problems as all other areas of the life sciences, employing the same tools. However, there is a growing trend toward systemic approaches in which different technologies are combined and applied to the same sample, allowing physiological changes to be assessed more robustly throughout all molecular layers of mRNA, protein and metabolite changes. Nutrigenomics is thereby maturing as a branch of the life sciences and is gaining significant recognition in the scientific community.
Nutrigenomics provides great promise in fighting the epidemic of obesity and cancer.
33% of US consumers may be collecting and acting upon nutrigenomic information it can help explain some of the inconsistencies among previous studies that have linked nutrients, supplements, and other bio-actives to a number of health outcomes. Second, it can help us understand how to eat or which supplements to use based on our genetic profile.
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