01 Jun Should Diet Be Based On Your Genetics?
By Valentine Reed-Johnson, RD, CDN, Contributing Blogger
Most of the dietary guidelines have remained relatively unchanged since the 1980’s. The guidelines specifically focus on foods that help keep you healthy and help prevent chronic disease, like heart disease. For years registered dietitians have been teaching and living these guidelines.
There is now a change in the way recommendations are made by health care professionals. There are now numerous research methods and hypotheses that try to hone in on individualized care. These methods rely less on large epidemiologic studies and more on personalized DNA testing. Specifically seen in cancer treatment and medication selection, this method is taking off. So, why can’t this method be used to determine personalized nutrition recommendations? Welcome to determining what you should eat based on your genetic makeup; otherwise known as nutrigenomics. Here’s how it works and find out if it’s something you should be looking into.
How Nutrigenomics Works
The concept of nutrigenomics is that people do not all process food the same way. How you process food can be determined by obtaining DNA from a saliva sample. One specific service investigates 7 specific genes which are directly related to metabolizing certain foods and minerals. A specialized team then breaks down the results for you. Turns out getting to know yourself through genetics is expensive; $300 is most definitely not chump change.
At a recent lecture held by Dr. Ahmed El-Sohemy, an expert on nutrigenomics, this type of testing was further clarified using caffeine as an example. It seems that some folks are fast metabolizers of caffeine, which means that these individuals can consume 3 cups of coffee daily safely without the risk for heart disease, whereas, someone who metabolizes caffeine more slowly would face a significantly greater risk. Another example is sodium, and an individual’s risk for high blood pressure; If you have the “ace” gene you have to be more careful with salt.
Jury’s Still Out
Is nutrigenomics something you should be doing? Do you really need to know exact details of how you metabolize specific foods? In the case of caffeine, expert in the field the claim that 50-percent of the population are slow metabolizers, with a 4 times greater risk than a fast metabolizer of experiencing a cardiovascular event (like heart attack). This may be important information to know if you like several cups of coffee a day. However, with regards to gluten, salt and other micronutrients, there may be less urgency of knowing the potential difference in milligrams recommended.
The Bottom Line: The Dietary Guidelines are still the best (and cheapest!) recommendations to follow. There is really no need to shell out the money to get a specific DNA reading on what your body is doing.
Valentine is a registered dietitian nutritionist, currently working at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. At the hospital she covers general medicine floors. Eventually, Valentine hopes to open up a private practice alongside her hospital position. Valentine believes in providing practical nutrition knowledge, encouraging others to think logically when it comes to their health. Follow Valentine on twitter or check out her website.