Research is showing that our health is a consequence of the interaction between our genetic make-up and the environment to which our genes are exposed, such as diet and lifestyle.
Because everyone is unique, a generally healthy diet might work for some but not for everyone. More and more people realise they have a problem with certain food groups. Take carbs for instance, there are people who thrive on a diet high in fat and protein with very little or no carbs, and I’m not talking Eskimos! For most doctors and nutritionists, this possibility amounts to a nutritional heresy, they simply can’t accept that a high-fat high-protein diet, otherwise known as a ketogenic diet, could sustain health in the long term. But in practice, it has been found that some people feel incredibly well and energised following such a diet.
So who is right?The answer is: no one and everyone, because simply put: one man’s food is another man’s poison. There is no such thing as a “generally healthy diet”. With the exception of identical twins, we all have some differences in our genetic code that can account for why we look and behave differently from one another. These differences also explain why certain processes in our bodies, such as metabolism, may function differently.
Luckily, one of the most revolutionary medical advances of recent times that will forever change the way medicine is practiced is here: GENETIC TESTING.
Genetic testing will tell you exactly what you should be eating according to your genetic make-up: there are some genes that can be measured that can give you more practical information about how you can make simple changes to your diet and lifestyle that can change your present and future health.
At the moment, there are several companies on the market offering genetic testing, some more useful than others. A great majority of these tests assess your genetic predisposition to specific chronic diseases but that can be easily deduced by just taking a look at your family history. Therefore their usefulness when creating a personalised diet is minimal, the tests are not specific enough.
The test that I decided to use in my practice is offered by NUTRIGENOMIX, a Canadian biotechnology company founded by global leaders in nutrigenomics research.
The main goal of nutrigenomics is to prevent chronic disease by examining how the interaction between genes and diet can positively influence human health. Our genes produce vital proteins (enzymes, transporters, receptors, hormones etc.) which interact with components of the food we eat to influence our nutritional status. Genetic variation means we all have different versions of a gene, which leads to differences in the amount of proteins produced and how efficiently proteins function. Genetic differences can affect how we respond to the foods we eat, giving each of us our own specific nutritional needs.
Lactose intolerance is one example of how different versions of a gene lead to different responses to dietary components. Individuals who are not lactose-intolerant possess a version of a gene that produces sufficient amounts of lactase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down lactose, and can enjoy dairy products without side effects. Individuals who are lactose-intolerant possess a version of the gene that does not produce functional lactase, and can experience acute gastrointestinal discomfort if they consume lactose.
We inherit two copies of most genes, one from our mother and one from our father. Each gene can exist in at least two different forms (e.g. having A or C at a specific position in the gene). As such, there are generally 3 possible combinations of gene variants, or genotypes (e.g. AA, AC or CC). As already mentioned, genes function to produce proteins, and the 3 possible combinations can produce proteins that function differently, thus affecting the way people respond to a particular dietary component. For example, differences may manifest in the body’s absorption, metabolism and utilisation of dietary components. It is the combination of these genetic variants that makes each person unique in his or her response to the foods, beverages and supplements they consume.
The NUTRIGENOMIX test measures 45 biomarkers that will give you vital information about:
• Your nutrient needs eg. Vitamins A, C, E, Omega 3, vitamin D, folate and the B vitamins
• How well you detoxify
• Your salt and caffeine sensitivities
• Your level of tolerance to lactose
• Your sensitivity to weight gain based on your fat or carb intake
• Whether you are at risk of being Coeliac or developing type 2 Diabetes later in life
• Your ideal way to eat
• Your antioxidant needs
• What type and amount of exercise best suits your genetic make-up allowing you to achieve your full potential.
I would encourage everyone to do a genetic testing for optimum health. Knowing your genetic profile allows for more precise dietary advice that highlights your most important nutritional needs and health risks. Your nutritionist is not a medium, therefore without this information, your healthcare provider will have to fall back on general health recommendations. And these general health recommendations might be ok for some, but might have no relevance for you.
At the same time, please bear in mind that DNA-based dietary recommendations can be more stringent than general recommendations, since some individuals possess genetic variants that affect specific metabolic pathways thereby making them more susceptible to adverse health outcomes if intake of a particular nutrient is too low or too high. However, by tailoring a person’s nutritional intake to his or her genetic profile, the benefits of nutrition for optimal health can be maximised.
To learn more about genetic testing and personalised nutrition for optimum health, you can watch this webinar here.