Your Genes and Food: The Science of Personalized Nutrition

By Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA

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Photo source: iStock Photos

Highlights of the American Nutrition Association meeting

Genetic Plasticity

Jeff Bland, Ph.D., Founder and President of the PML Institute, set the tone of the meeting by asserting that genes are not our destiny. Rather, he explained, genetic expression is what defines our function. He went on to say that,

  1. Fine tuning knob: Epigenetic and environmental modulation

Nutritional genetics research

An early breakthrough in the research landscape occurred when Dr. Chris D’Adamo, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, wondered why is there so much heterogeneity in the outcomes of clinical trials?

  1. Nutrigenomics (gene expression) is the way our genes respond to nutrition through epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation and histone deacetylase (HDAC).

Big data, complexity, and collaboration

D’Adamo notes that big data sets will generally be needed to tease out small effects from combinations of large numbers of genes. He explains,

A deeper dive into micronutrients

D’Adamo continued saying that it is interesting, if not surprising, that researchers have found genetic associations in almost every micronutrient they have examined. Yet, we only now understand gross results within broad categories, “without the specificity to perfectly isolate the contribution of individual genes.”

Epigenetics: Histone Deacetylase (HDAC)

Histone deacetylases are a very large group of enzymes involved in a plethora of biological processes. One essential role is the control of gene transcription in cells, removing acetyl groups from histones that wrap DNA. This, like methylation, is an epigenetic mechanism.

HDAC and food

Below are examples of the various food sources that can inhibit HDAC activity.

Other important points of Dr. D’Adamo’s talk are shown below:

Using the evolving science in practice

Jessica M. Pizano, DCN, CNS of Nutritional Genomics Institute presented case studies translating this research into clinical practice. For example, she presented the case of a 72-year old woman who had already seen both conventional and functional providers without a clear explanation of her symptoms. By focusing on metabolic pathways and examining her functional laboratory test results along with her salient SNPs (shown below) revealed that she needed a very specific form of B12. With treatment, she is now feeling better.

Final thoughts

Overall, the meeting offered a terrific line up of experts tackling various complications around using personalized nutrition in clinical practice. It left me feeling more optimistic about moving from an autoimmune disease treatment system to one focused on autoimmune personalized care.

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