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Eat According to Your Genes: Personalized Nutrition

Published on: 06/25/2024

Individual genetic variations affect the way that you respond to the foods you eat, the beverages you drink, and the supplements you take. This is nutrigenomics.

Over the past few years, nutrigenomics, a blend of “nutrition” and “genomics,” has been emerging at the intersection of nutrition, genetics, and health. It is the study of how our genetic makeup affects our response to nutrients and other compounds in the foods that we eat. It examines how these nutrients can influence the expression of our genes.

You are unique and you have a unique genetic profile. Your genetic profile is composed of variations in your genetic sequence and these can affect metabolic processes such as how you metabolize carbohydrates, fat, and protein. These genetic variations can also impact how well your body absorbs and uses vitamins and minerals. With nutrigenomics, we can provide personalized nutrition and give recommendations that are tailored to your genes. You really can eat according to your genes!

Genetic Variations

A key concept in nutrigenomics is the idea of genetic polymorphisms, which are variations in DNA sequences that occur among individuals. These polymorphisms can influence how our bodies respond to different nutrients. 

An example of this involves the MTHFR gene. The MTHFR gene affects the body’s ability to process folate. People with certain variations of the MTHFR gene may require a higher intake of folate in order to prevent folate deficiences and associated health issues.

Another example is the APOE gene. This gene plays a role in cholesterol metabolism. Individuals with the APOE4 variant of this gene are at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. For these individuals, a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fats may be particularly beneficial.

Personalized Nutrition

The ultimate goal of nutrigenomics is to be able to provide personalized nutrition recommendations that are based on an individual’s unique genetic profile. There are several benefits to personalized nutrition, such as…

  • Optimized nutrient intake: With nutrigenomics, we can understand if you have a genetic predisposition for certain nutrient deficiencies. This information can help ensure that you get the right amount of essential nutrients preventing deficiencies and supporting your overall health.
  • Improved weight management: Your genes influence how your body processes and stores fats and carbohydrates. Eating for your genes can help you manage your weight by tailoring your diet to your metabolic profile.
  • Reduced risk of chronic diseases: Some genetic variations are associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Personalized nutrition can help mitigate these risks because you’ll have guidance on nutrition strategies that you can implement to counteract these genetic predispositions.
  • Enhanced athletic performance: Athletes (and anyone who wants to improve their fitness) can benefit from personalized nutrition plans that align with their genetic strengths and weaknesses. These personalized nutrition plans can help optimize performance and recovery.

Nutrigenomics in Action

As I’ve learned more and more about nutrigenomics, it became clear that this was something that I wanted to provide as part of Friendly Nutrition’s services. As part of this, I took a nutrigenomics test to learn more about what this type of test could tell me and how it could provide guidance on eating based on my genetic profile. Here are some of the results from my nutrigenomics test and how I am implementing them into my own personalized nutrition plan.

  • Vitamin D – I am at an increased risk of low vitamin D levels. It is important that I get enough vitamin D. I’ve been taking a vitamin D supplement for awhile but it was a pretty low dose. Based on this information, I have changed my vitamin D supplement.
  • Folate – The variant that I have for the MTHFR gene does not increase or decrease my risk for folate deficiency. I don’t need to make any changes in regards to my folate intake.
  • Gluten – I am at a medium risk for gluten intolerance. I’m not really making any major diet changes related to gluten; however, this information makes sense because if I have a day of high gluten intake, I do experience gastrointestinal issues so I now know that watching my gluten intake is a good idea for me.
  • Caffeine – I am a fast metabolizer of caffeine. This means that my body processes caffeine relatively quickly. I am also more sensitive to the stimulating effects of caffeine. All of this means that I have no increased risk of hypertension or heart attack if I consume caffeine but I have an increased risk of caffeine induced anxiety.
  • Energy balance – My resting metabolic rate is potentially lower than what can be estimated using the metabolic equations we have. I have the genetic variant for a resting metabolic rate that is about 10% lower than average. For this, in order to maintain my weight or lose weight, I should decrease my calorie intake by 10% – 20% from my estimated energy needs.

If you’re interested in eating for your genes, Friendly Nutrition now offers nutrigenomics testing. Click here to learn more. If you’d like to see a sample results report, click here.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at jessica@friendlynutritionllc.com.

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About Jessica
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Jessica is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, and trained FODMAP Coach. She started Friendly Nutrition to help you find balance, peace, and joy in eating, in your relationship with food, and in your relationship with your gut.

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