Just when you thought that you’d heard enough about genetics, here comes yet another genetics buzzword that you’ll surely come across in the near future: nutrigenomics. Before getting down to the details on what exactly nutrigenomics is, let’s put a few things into perspective. It’s not so much that nutrigenomics is the latest hip genetic fad, it’s one of the many newfound applications of genetic testing that’s enjoying success due to the surging biotechnology industry.

What Is Nutrigenomics?

Nutrigenomics (also known as a DNA diet) is a young science that attempts to marry nutrition with genetics, studying how our genes interact with food at the molecular level. Thanks to the unraveling of the human genome, we can now begin to understand the cell-by-cell relationship between nutrition and health. But will that translate into anything useful?

How Is Nutrigenomics Being Used?

Hopefully by now you’re pretty familiar with genetic testing,the everyday testing of our genetic profile to identify risk factors for various diseases. Recently, how this genetic information is being used has changed. Clinics are now using information in a client’s DNA to develop tailor-made diets to help prevent disease or to improve weight loss. The process is surprisingly simple: Take a swab of your cheek using a custom test kit, drop the swab into a plastic bottle, seal and then ship it off to a lab for analysis (at least that’s one example).

Meanwhile, other nutrigenomics research is being used to develop functional or enriched foods, specifically meant to target various diseases (take for example an “anti-atherosclerosis milkshake”).

Who Can Use Nutrigenomics?

Anyone can use a DNA diet; a host of services are being offered online to any person with an internet connection. With little regulation or screening, however, there is little oversight in the process and thus there is an onus on the buyer to do their research before blindly jumping into the market. Apart from the general public, athletes are taking advantage of these services to maximize gains.

Need a little context? Outside Online recently told a story of recreational athlete Alesandra Rain, an avid cyclist. Alesandra, 48, was forced to give up cycling due to a weakening spine. However, a DNA test revealed that she was unable to metabolize vitamin B or calcium from pills and thus her nutritional consultant told her to add pine nuts, broccoli, cauliflower (all for vitamin B-6), and onions (a key source of quercetin, which helps bones retain calcium) to her diet, and within a month her spine had healed. While inspiring, such success stories should not be taken at face value, as other cases are rarely as cut and dry.

Where Can I Try Nutrigenomics and How Much Does it Cost?

Genetic testing along with nutritional consultation can run you anywhere from around $500 to $1,400 and can be found from a variety of online labs including Carolyn Katzin's The DNA Diet, Genelex and Genova Diagnostics, just to name a few. But the question isn’t really where to find them, it’s whether or not these services work.

Does Nutrigenomics Work?

Skeptics in the field, of which there are many, are quick to point out that nutrigenomics is still very much in its infancy. With tests examining only 20 to 30 genes out of some 25,000 genes in a human cell, some will say that it’s premature to develop a diet around such basic information. On the other hand, proponents say that anywhere is a good place to start. So while there is definitely potential, there still isn’t solid evidence out there to support what could become a mainstream dieting sensation.

Does Your Diet Suit Your DNA?

Although nutrigenomics is a new development, interest in so-called DNA dieting has already started to wane — probably due to a lack of buy-in from experts in the field. This is not, however, to say that the field is dead — quite the contrary. As more and more genes are linked to various diseases, DNA dieting will develop firmer roots and we’ll probably see greater demand. It’s all just a matter of time.

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