Nutritional Genomics: Interaction Between Nutrients and Genes


“Modern” Science is now proving the age-old adage “You Are What You Eat” is true: Nutrition is a key factor in the development of chronic diseases. Nutritional research has therefore evolved from a discipline that determines the required daily intake of calories and essential macro-and micronutrients into a biomedical science with a high potential for disease prevention. The food industry has responded to this awareness by designing foods that not only attempt to satisfy the hedonic preferences of the consumer but also promise additional health benefits. The chemical complexity of diets and the equally complex responses of individual to a defined diet imply scientific challenges that are easily met either by the stringent methodology of analytical biochemistry nor by descriptive epidemiology. Instead, the concerted approaches of functional genomics promise to provide reliable and more useful answers within a reasonable time frame.

With nutritional science (food science, food genomics) functional genomics comprises two interrelated areas: the influence of nutrients on the transcriptional activity of genes and the heterogeneous response of gene variants to nutrients.

Nutritional Genomics (food genomics) is a science studying the relationship between human genome, nutrition and health. It can be divided into two disciplines:

1. Nutrigenomics: studies the effect of nutrients on health through altering genome, proteome, metabolome and the resulting changes in physiology.

2. Nutrigenetics: studies the effect of genetic variations on the interaction between diet and health with implications to susceptible subgroups.

“Many people are kept ill because they do not know how to select food that their own particular bodies will take up and build upon.” –A.W. Duncan, author of The Chemistry of Food and Nutrition, 1884.

The age of nutrigenomics is already upon us. Various new programs in molecular nutrition and research have been launched in Europe, Asia, and the US under the heading of nutrigenomics. We may for this review consider nutrigenomics as the science that seeks to provide a molecular understanding for how diets and common dietary constituents affect mammalian metabolism and health by altering gene/protein expression on basis of an individual’s genetic makeup…

The mother's nutrition can be so important that it can alter her offspring's susceptibility to disease by changing gene expression, say researchers who claim to have explained for the first time how maternal nutrition can predetermine risk of obesity or cancer.

Scientists from Duke University in the US showed they could change the coat color of baby mice simply by feeding their mothers four common nutritional supplements before and during pregnancy

Dr Randy Jirtle, senior investigator of the study, published in today's issue of Molecular and Cellular Biology. "For the first time ever, we have shown precisely how nutritional supplementation to the mother can permanently alter gene expression in her offspring without altering the genes themselves." In experiments, pregnant mice that received vitamin B12, folic acid, choline and betaine (from sugar beets) gave birth to babies predominantly with brown coats. In contrast, pregnant mice that did not receive the nutritional supplements gave birth predominantly to mice with yellow coats. The non-supplemented mothers were not deficient in these nutrients.

A study of the cellular differences between the groups of baby mice showed that the extra nutrients reduced the expression of a specific gene, called Agouti, to cause the coat color change. Yet the Agouti gene itself remained unchanged. This is called 'DNA methylation', and it could potentially affect dozens of other genes that make humans and animals susceptible to cancer, obesity, diabetes, and even autism.

Feed Your Genes Right: Eat to Turn Off Disease-Causing Genes and Slow Down Aging. Offering an unusual mix of hard science, commonsense nutritional advice and even a handful of recipes, this book counsels readers to take control of their bodies (and, more specifically, their genes) by being knowledgeable about what to feed them. "Nutrients provide the building blocks of genes, and they turn many genes on and off," Challem notes. Therefore, what you eat determines not only your energy level and your belt size, but also your risk of DNA damage and disease.

Nutritional Genomics: Impact on Health and Disease. Nutritional genomics paves the way for novel applications in medicine and human nutrition, and this volume presents the latest data on how genetic variation is associated with dietary response and how nutrients influence gene expression. In so doing, it brings together the various disciplines involved in this field of research, making this essential reading for nutritionists, biochemists and molecular biologists.

Nutritional genomics is a highly innovative and fast-growing field, linking genome research, plant biotechnology and molecular nutritional research. It covers nutrigenomics, which explores the effects of nutrients on the genome, proteome and metabolome, as well as nutrigenetics, the major goal of which is to elucidate the effect of genetic variation on the interaction between diet and disease. Nutritional genomics thus paves the way for novel applications in medicine and human nutrition.

This book presents the latest data on how genetic variation is associated with dietary response and how nutrients influence gene expression, bringing together the various disciplines involved in research. The result is essential reading for nutritionists, biochemists and molecular biologists.

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