Genetics may define diets of the future

Scientists look at how personalized nutrition could change how and what we eat
By Carrie Peyton Dahlberg – Bee Staff Writer
Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, October 15, 2007
Deep in each person’s genetic code may lie the answers to which medicines can help them, which environmental
toxins can kill them, and even which foods they should eat to live well.
The tantalizing prospect of personally tailored diets, dictated by our genetic makeup, drew hundreds of scientists
and dietitians from around the world to UC Davis over the weekend for a conference on nutritional genomics.
The fast-growing field “will be huge,” said Jim Kaput, who next month will take over as head of the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration’s division of personalized nutrition and medicine. “We are definitely not ready for it.”
In interviews, Kaput and other conference speakers said that as the cost of creating individual genetic profiles
drops, doctors, dietitians and consumers will be able to get massive amounts of data about themselves.
The challenge will be figuring out what to do with it.
“Eating for your genotype is probably decades away,” said Judith Gilbride, a nutrition professor at New York
University who last year was president of the American Dietetic Association.
Genes interact with each other and with the environment in so many ways that it will be a long, slow slog toward
advice so specific that you’re told to eat more broccoli while your neighbor is advised to opt for oranges.
What’s likely to come first are potentially valuable snippets of information.
In a study that made headlines last year, researchers zeroed in on a genetic variation that affects how quickly
different people process caffeine.
They found that people who drink lots of coffee but metabolize caffeine slowly face a greater risk of heart attacks
than those who drink just as much coffee but clear caffeine from their bodies faster.
Ahmed El-Sohemy, co-author of that study, said this could help explain some of the conflicting results from earlier
research into coffee and heart disease.
If a substance can be bad for people with one set of genes, but harmless or beneficial for people with different
genes, it’s easier to see why studies that lump everyone together can be unclear or misleading.
In one way, today’s cutting-edge nutritional research is pointing back toward older truths, said Ray Rodriguez, who
heads UC Davis’ nutritional genomics center and who organized the weekend conference.
“People don’t always respond the same way to the same diet. I think our ancestors knew that, our grandmothers
knew that, but experts assumed we really all did respond the same,” Rodriguez said.
One of his favorite examples is a low-fat diet. Most people with high cholesterol see it drop when they consume less
fat. But a smaller group, roughly 30 percent, see it increase instead.
Other examples are certain to come tumbling out as academic researchers, pharmaceutical companies and the food
industry keep exploring what our bodies do with foods we eat.
“The progress is significant,” said Leon Frenken of the Unilever Foods and Health Research Institute, who came to
the conference to catch up on both the science and the start-up companies that hope to capitalize on it.
“What I hear here really is flabbergasting,” Frenken said.
One of the first big markets, he predicted, will be demand for tests that can tell people more about their DNA
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profiles and about how they metabolize certain fats.
A few companies have already begun offering diets based on genetic testing for the general public, but UC Davis’
Rodriguez dismisses them as “infotainment.”
It’s not that the science behind them is bad or sloppy, he said. It’s simply that so far, we don’t know enough yet to
leap from a few genetic details to truly individualized diets.
There is a danger, too, in relying too much on genetics to predict how healthy we can be, said heart health
researcher and author Dr. Dean Ornish.
In a packed Saturday evening talk underscoring his long exploration of lifestyle and heart disease, Ornish noted
that new research is focusing on ways our behaviors can change how our genes work.
Exercise in older people, for example, was recently shown to affect about 300 different genes, increasing activity in
some and dampening it in others.
“You’re not a victim of your genes,” Ornish said. “You can actually change to a much larger degree than we once
In time, he predicted, doctors will be able to tailor recommendations much more precisely, using genetic testing to
help each person find the right mix of diet, exercise and medication.


About thelifestylechanger

Glenda De Luca has spent over 25 years in the Beauty Industry, and has transitioned from the temporary beauty fix to permanent health and well-being, helping others transform their outer beauty based on nutrition and movement. She has also spent two years doing extensive research on the effects of pH levels in the body, and its profound impact on your health and well being. THE LIFESTYLE CHANGER Orange County, CA, USA 949.215.5701 Office 408.398.8043 Cell E-mail: Glenda has a Bachelor of Science degree in Para Psychic Sciences as well as a Level 2 Reiki Certification and is currently studying for her Masters in Holistic Nutrition. She lives a healthy lifestyle where she incorporates what she loves to eat based on a pH balanced diet, food combining, and customized supplementation based on her own personal DNA. She also incorporates movement into her Lifestyle to achieve the perfect weight and health. She is passionate about helping others achieve their Health and Wellness "Desired Results" in a manner that is fun, easy and sustainable.
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