“Leave your drug in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food” — Hippocrates
Last week I attended the American College of Nutrition’s 59th annual conference. I was fortunate to listen to some of the world’s leading scientists, functional medicine doctors, and top nutrigenomics researchers lecture, and then speak with them in person.
Nutrigenomics (nutritional genomics) is an emerging field that studies how the human genome and/or genes interact with diet to influence individual’s and population’s responses to food and diseases.
The excitement about nutrigenomics comes from a growing awareness of the potential that making small modifications in our food or diet can have a huge impact on our health, and reduce the risk of diet-related diseases. It allows us to understand and personalize medicine, nutrition, and supplementation.
You may have already heard about genetic testing companies, maybe you even did a genetic test. Although research on nutrigenomics and genetic testing is still ongoing, testing can already be hugely beneficial for some specific diseases, and can lead you to try alternatives for healing.
Nutrients are the most continuous source of environmental influence on our genomes. Nutrient and gene interactions are involved in regulation of important pathways that keep us healthy.
And nutrigenomics — which brings together the science of bioinformatics, nutrition, molecular biology, genomics, epidemiology, and molecular medicine — helps us in understanding which nutrients have beneficial or harmful effects for specific genotypes.
It also helps us to understand the development and progression of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Armed with this knowledge, we can then prevent the onset, or mitigate the effects of these disease.
We understand now that with increasing changes in food habits and lifestyles, people are becoming more prone to diet related disorders. Therefore there is an urgent need to boost more research in this field to help people in understanding the relationship between diet and health, and to ensure that everyone benefits from the genomic revolution.
Nutrigenomics is still in its infancy, there is a lot to learn, and it is unfortunately not yet accessible for everyone. However, there is now little doubt that we will be hearing and applying more and more of it each day. This is exciting news!
It’s important, though, that we don’t forget that the body works as a whole. So even when we learn about our nutrigenomics, we can not target a single gene, we still need to know how everything interacts and what other influences are present.
One person’s food can be another person’s poison. We can not generalize diet, so we really need to pay attention to our body’s reaction after we eat.
Like Dr. Jeffrey Bland, the founder and pioneer in the field of Functional Medicine, says in his most recent book, “Disease is a delusion.” We can not separate different diseases — our genes and pathways are connected, it doesn’t matter how we label a disease, we just need to heal and keep our body healthy as a whole.
￼As I always suggest, it’s important that we eat a variety of nutrients, and that we’re aware and connected with our body so that we can hear what our body is trying to tell us.
Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892