Genetics and Nutrigenomics
Nutrigenomics is the integration of genetic science with nutrition, and deals with the effects of specific micronutrients on gene expression. Our genetics test provides personalised information about health and risk factors. It can help to make sense of certain traits like anxiety or whether hormone imbalances are driven by your genetic expression. You can then be proactive in supporting your health by implementing diet and lifestyle changes. This new technology is an invaluable tool to help understand your body better and to optimise your future health.
Genetics and Heredity
Genetics is the study of genes, heredity and the variation of inherited characteristics.
Our genes sit on23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which we inherit from our mother and the other half from our father. Altogether it is estimated that we have almost 25,000 protein coding genes, which together provide the biological script for all human life.
Genes are the basic unit of heredity and phenotypic traits (inherited characteristics). Genes form different DNA sequences called genotypes. Our genetypes, together with environmental and developmental factors, determine what our phenotype will be.
Most traits are under the control of multiple genes, as well as many gene-environment interactions. Some genetic traits are clearly visible, such as hair or eye colour and height and build, but many are not, such as blood type, the risk for specific diseases, or the thousands of biochemical processes which constitute life.
There are only three main types of disease:
- Infections, caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites
- Deficiency disease, caused by lack of nutrition or specific nutrients such as vitamins or minerals eg lack of dietary iron causing anaemia
- Hereditary disease, caused by genetic mutations in combination with environmental and lifestyle factors.
Genes and Disease
Over generations genes can acquire mutations in their sequence leading to slightly different variants (versions of the same gene) known as alleles or SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms, variations or deletions). These SNPs encode for an altered version of the gene which can lead to different phenotypical traits. Genes typically code for biochemicals known as proteins which are large, complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body. They are created within cells and are required for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.
Alterations in the genetic code for these proteins can mean that when they are expressed (the code is copies form a gene and used to synthesise new proteins in the cell) they may be faulty, produced in greater or lesser amounts than is normal, or not produced at all. These changes have a profound influence on our health and on our susceptibility to many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, gastrointestinal conditions, hormone imbalance, inflammatory disorders, age-related cognitive dysfunction, neurological diseases and mental illnesses.
Whether a genetic disposition will eventually manifest as a disease depends on a complex interplay between genes, environmental and lifestyle/behavioural factors. This new understanding of certain common diseases has helped in the gene-based approach to the study of health and disease, known as Nutrigenomics.
Nutrigenomics – controlling our genes
Nutrigenomics is the integration of genetic science with nutrition together with other lifestyle variables.
Although genes are critical for determining function and form, nutrition modifies the extent to which different genes are expressed, thereby having a direct effect on whether individuals attain the potential established by their genetic background.
Nutrigenomics deals with the effects of specific nutrients on the expression of an individual gene, and includes the use of nutritional factors which protect the genome from damage and support repair. The application of specific micro-nutritional interventions can have a dramatic effect on direct or indirect control of gene expression which in turn has an effect on our susceptibility to certain diseases.
Nutrition and dietary factors can be used to stability activity of the genome once potentially harmful genetic variations have occurred.
How we can help
At the Clinic we combine the science of nutrition and genetics to establish a diet and lifestyle protocol to suit your specific needs.
The DNA test is a simple mouth swab which is sent to the lab to establish which SNPs you have (everyone has some). We then analyse this data to establish their overall effect on your metabolism and susceptibility to specific diseases.
After we have gathered this data together with your health history a bespoke Nutrition & Lifestyle Plan will then be prepared which will enable you to reach your genetic potential. This will involve a diet plan to make sure that specific nutrient needs are fully met (with recommendations for supplementation if necessary) as these are often vital co-factors in controlling gene expression.
We will provide you with an SNP Analysis Report which will highlight any significant SNPs you have, their likely effects on metabolism, and any disease or illness to which you may be more susceptible as a result. Specific lifestyle advice will also be provided.
Modern genetics enables us to look deeply into your heredity, which can provide a glimpse of what the future might hold for your health. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. If you know about something before it happens, you can be prepared for it. It’s never too early (or too late) to start doing the right things for your body.