What is Nutrigenetics and Why is it Important?
Nutrigenetics is the future of nutrition. Imagine a world where your diet is tailored entirely to your DNA. A diet that not only assists in shedding unwanted weight but also amplifies your fitness, bolsters your health, and promises a longer, more vibrant life. Well, welcome to the world of nutrigenetics.
Statistics are enlightening. For instance:
- About 45% of weight loss potential is dictated by genetics (1)
- 10% of athletes face adverse performance effects due to caffeine (2)
- 5% to 65% of individuals grapple with lactose intolerance (3)
These stats underscore a massive problem – most nutrition guidelines such as the RDA or NRV, dietary plans and convenient food products are all 'one-size-fits-all' and neglect our unique genetic makeup. Understanding our genes and personalising our diets can provide the breakthrough many of us need to feel and perform at our best.
"The relationship between our genes and what we eat is becoming clearer, enabling personalised nutrition interventions that can optimise daily nutritional intake and achieve enhanced levels of physical and cognitive performance”. - Professor Vimal Karani, Professor of Nutrigenetics & Nutrigenomics University of Reading
But what is nutrigenetics and why should it matter to you? This article dives into the rapidly developing science and how it paves the way to personalised nutrition, empowering you to achieve unparalleled health and fitness milestones like never before.
Table of Contents:
- Basics of Nutrigenetics and Personalised Nutrition
- Nutrigenetics and your Macronutrient Needs
- Nutrigenetics and your Micronutrient Needs
- Nutrigenetics and Food Sensitivities
- Nutrigenetics and Weight Loss
- Nutrigenetics and Athletic Performance
- Nutrigenetics and Diseases
- How Nutrigenetics Powers NGX Personalised Nutrition
1. Basics of Nutrigenetics and Personalised Nutrition
Nutrigenetics is the science that bridges the gap between the food you consume and your distinct genetic makeup. Genetic variations, known as SNPs, determine your body’s nutrient response, influencing crucial lifestyle factors like physical function, cognitive performance and overall wellbeing.
Recognising these genetic differences can inform which foods to consume more of, and which to limit, in order to achieve an optimised personal diet.
2. Nutrigenetics and Your Macronutrient Needs
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are vital components of your diet. But depending on your genetic makeup, you may metabolise these macronutrients differently. For instance, you may be genetically predisposed to efficiently metabolise fats, making a diet high in essential fats like Omega-3 beneficial for you (4). In contrast, you might benefit from a higher protein intake to aid in building lean muscle and improving body shape.
For example, the APOA2 gene influences how your body processes saturated fats, and the rate at which you gain weight when following high saturated fat diets (5). Other genes such as the FTO, ADRB2 and PPARG also play a significant role in how your body processes macronutrients (6).
3. Nutrigenetics and Your Micronutrient Needs
It's not just the macronutrients that are influenced by your genes - it's the micros too. Vitamins and minerals play a crucial role in maintaining your health. Nutrigenetics helps determine if you are genetically predisposed to deficiencies or difficulties in metabolising these nutrients. For instance, variations in your VDR gene can mean you require more Vitamin D than most (7), while changes in your MTHFR gene can reduce your ability to use Folate (Vitamin B9) (8).
There are many other genetic variations that influence many other essential micronutrients, such as BC01, TCN2 and GPX1 influencing your requirement for Vitamin A, Vitamin B12 and Selenium respectively.
4. Nutrigenetics and Food Sensitivities
Many people carry genes making them sensitive or intolerant to certain foods, which can hinder nutrient absorption and significantly impact
wellbeing if not addressed. For example, the LCT gene encodes (provides the instructions) for creating the digestive enzyme Lactase (9). Without lactase, the body cannot digest lactose, which is commonly found in dairy products such as milk and yoghurt. When you are unable to digest lactose and consume these products, you experience uncomfortable side affects such as bloating, gas and stomach cramps.
Coeliac disease (CD) and the associated sensitivity to gluten is another area where nutrigenetics is instrumental. For some, consuming gluten leads to a range of unpleasant symptoms, while others remain unaffected. Almost all individuals with CD possess one of two human leukocyte antigen (HLA) gene variants: HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ82 (10).
5. Nutrigenetics Role in Weight Management
A key aspect of nutrigenetics lies in identifying genetic variations that predispose you to gaining weight under certain dietary or
lifestyle conditions. For instance, you might have a genetic profile that makes you more prone to store fat when you consume high amounts of carbohydrates (11). Others may thrive on a protein-rich diet that aids in preserving lean muscle mass during weight loss.
One of the most studied genes in relation to obesity and fat metabolism is the FTO gene (12). There is such a wealth of data in the area that it has even earned the rather unflattering nickname, the "Fatso" gene. Variations in this gene show correlations with appetite regulation, energy expenditure, fat storage and weight gain. Understanding this can help you pick the right balance of macronutrients for managing your weight.
6. Nutrigenetics and Athletic Performance
For athletes, nutrition plays a pivotal role in enhancing performance, endurance and recovery. And when you are consistently pushing the boundaries of human performance, finding that extra 1% matters. As geneticist Dr. Sharon Moalem notes, "Your genes can guide your diet for better athletic performance." It’s as simple as that.
As an athlete, nutrigenetics can provide you with critical insights for optimising your diet alongside your training routine. For example, the age-old debate about which is the best fuel source for athletes – fats or carbs — can be settled with insights from genes such as PPARG. Linked with fat metabolism, variations in this gene provide insights into how efficiently you break down fats for energy (13). Athletes with certain variants can perform better on a higher fat diet, particularly in endurance events.
Nutrigenetics provides insight into several other important nutrients for athletic performance, such as VO2 max, protein, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and Caffeine.
7. Nutrigenetics and Diseases
Several genetic markers can signal an elevated risk of particular diseases for you. By understanding these markers, you can take proactive steps in your diet to support healthy ageing and longevity.
The APOE gene for example, which plays a role in Alzheimer’s and cholesterol metabolism (14). If you have certain variants of this gene, your body might process dietary cholesterol and saturated fats differently. For someone like you, a diet rich in fats might raise the risk of high cholesterol and subsequent heart disease more than it would for others. Moreover, if you have variations in the TCF7L2 gene, you could be at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes (15). Being informed about this empowers you to monitor and adjust your sugar intake, promoting better health in the long run.
How Nutrigenetics Powers NGX Personalised Nutrition
With NGX, nutrigenetics forms the backbone of your personalised diet. Start with the DNA Nutrition Test to uncover your unique dietary needs. The test includes a complete report that highlights your individual macronutrient and micronutrient requirements, pinpoints ideal food groups, and flags any sensitivities like lactose, gluten, or caffeine.
For daily nourishment, turn to BodyFuel PRO, a protein-rich shake blended with vitamins and minerals tailored for you. Need a boost? NGX offers a customised pack, loaded with either slow-release carbs or high energy fats, depending on your genetic profile.
Training day? Use the NGX PowerPack. It’s a performance shake built around your genetics, packed with essentials like protein, creatine, and L-arginine to enhance your workout and recovery.
Nutrigenetics has the power to revolutionise our diets and nutrition by leveraging our unique genetic makeup to personalise dietary choices. This
new science is rapidly evolving and we are learning more and more about how genetics influences our diet every day. By understanding these genetic
variations and sensitivities, we can transform our health, athletic performance and approach to weight management, and even prevent some diseases. NGX products embody this approach, offering you the most convenient wat to personalise your diet, using nutrigenetic insights.
About the Authors & Contributors
Jeremy Poland, Co-Founder & CEO of Nutri-Genetix
Olga Hamilton, Head of Nutrigenetic Science at Nutri-Genetix
Becca Taylor, Nutri-Genetix Nutritionist
Professor Vimal Karani, University of Reading
When was nutrigenetics invented?
Nutrigenetics emerged as a distinct field in the late 20thcentury, though the concept that genetics can influence nutritional needs and responses has been around for much longer. The advancement in genetic research and technology during the 1990s and 2000s paved the way for its development.
What is the role of nutrigenetics?
Nutrigenetics studies the relationship between genetic variation and the way individuals respond to nutrients in the diet. It aims to create personalised dietary recommendations based on a person's genetic makeup, optimising health and preventing nutrition-related diseases.
How can I test my nutrigenetics?
You can test your nutrigenetics through specialised DNA testing kits, like the NGX DNA Nutrition Test. After providing a cheek swab, the results will give insights into how your genes may influence your nutritional needs and responses.
What is an example of nutrigenetics?
An example is the variation in the lactase gene among populations. Some people carry a version of the gene that allows them to digest lactose in adulthood, while others become lactose intolerant due to a different genetic variant.
How does nutrigenetics work?
Nutrigenetics works by analysing specific genetic variants or polymorphisms in an individual's DNA. These variants can influence how a person metabolises certain nutrients, their susceptibility to nutrition-related diseases, and their response to different types of diets.
What is the difference between nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics?
Nutrigenetics focuses on how our genes affect our response to nutrients in the diet. Nutrigenomics, on the other hand, studies how nutrients affect the expression of genes. While nutrigenetics looks at the genetic makeup, nutrigenomics explores the impact of diet on gene activity.
How accurate is DNA nutrition?
While DNA nutrition tests can provide insights into certain genetic predispositions related to nutrition, the science is still evolving. The recommendations based on these tests can be general and may not be conclusive or fully accurate for every individual.
How is nutrigenetics applied in nutrition?
Nutrigenetics can be applied to create personalised nutrition plans, potentially optimising health outcomes and preventing diseases. It offers insights into optimal nutrient intake, potential food sensitivities, and metabolism patterns based on genetic makeup.
How are epigenetics and nutrition related?
Nutrition can influence epigenetic modifications, which are changes to the DNA structure that affect gene expression without altering the DNA sequence itself. For instance, certain nutrients or dietary patterns might activate or silence specific genes, thereby impacting health outcomes.
What is genomics in simple words?
Genomics is the study of all the genes in an organism (like humans) and their interactions with each other and the environment.
1 Nature Genetics Journal. Impact of Genetics on Dietary Intake Patterns.
2 Nutri-Genetix analysis of 5,000 DNA samples; Caffeine, Genotyping, and Athletic Performance: https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/caffeine-genotyping-and-athletic-performance
3 Lactose Intolerance; https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/lactose-intolerance/#inheritance
4 Nutrigenomics and Personalized Diets: What Will They Mean for Food? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4414021/
5 APOA2, Dietary Fat and Body Mass Index: Replication of a Gene-Diet Interaction in Three Independent Populations: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874956/
6 Association of FTO and ADRB2 gene variation with energy restriction induced adaptations in resting energy expenditure and physical activity: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7285957/
7 Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) Gene Polymorphisms Modify the Response to Vitamin D Supplementation: A Systematic
Review and Meta-Analysis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8780067/
8 Folate Insufficiency Due to MTHFR Deficiency Is Bypassed by 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7564482/
9 Lactose Intolerance: https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/lactose-intolerance/#frequency
10 Coeliac UK: https://www.coeliac.org.uk/information-and-support/coeliac-disease/about-coeliac-disease/causes/genetics/
11 Genetic-related and carbohydrate-related factors affecting liver fat accumulation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3559241/
12 The genetics of obesity: FTO leads the way: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2906751/
13 Interactions of the PPARγ2 Polymorphism with Fat Intake Affecting Energy Metabolism and Nutritional Outcomes in Obese Women: https://www.jstor.org/stable/48514077
14 ApoE4-Induced Cholesterol Dysregulation and Its Brain Cell Type-Specific Implications in the Pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6883979/
15 The Role of TCF7L2 in Type 2 Diabetes: https://diabetesjournals.org/diabetes/article/70/6/1220/137694/The-Role-of-TCF7L2-in-Type-2-Diabetes