Written By: Jack O’Connor, MS, RD
What is nutrigenomics?
Nutrigenomics has everything to do with how we respond to the food we eat. It is the study of how food can literally change the expression of our genes! It also helps us understand how our genes impact our body’s ability to utilize certain nutrients.
How does it work?
Within everyone’s DNA, there are small variations. These differences are what make each of us a unique individual! The most common type of variations are called single nucleotide polymorphisms (or SNPs). SNPs are normal and we all have hundreds of thousands of them within our genome. While some SNPs help explain why we look and behave differently… others help us understand our health.
Through genetic testing, we can identify specific SNPs which are linked to things like: metabolism, body weight, inflammation, nutrient status, blood pressure, brain health, and much more. From there, we can make personalized recommendations to improve those health outcomes!
Why is it important?
You probably know that you can inherit certain genes from your parents that can either increase or decrease your risk for health issues. While there are many genetic components that are out of one’s control, research and scientific advancements from the past 20 years has given us some powerful information which helps us control more than you think. We now know that the environment, including our food intake, can actually turn certain genes on or off, and thus impact our long-term health.
With the right tests and interpretations, we can learn specific recommendations to improve inflammation, weight loss, detoxification, bone health, cardiovascular health, nutrient intake, mental health, and even athletic performance! Knowing your genetic information (and how to use it) is a very helpful tool when we talk about ways to optimize wellbeing, feel happier, and improve longevity.
What are some common examples?
Body Weight: There are several gene variants that tell us how we metabolize carbohydrates and store fat, which can be used to personalize recommendations.
Blood Pressure: Some SNPs can tell us if excessive salt intake increases blood pressure or if it has a minimal impact.
Cholesterol: variations of the APOE gene increases cholesterol and risk for heart disease.
Nutrient Status: Certain gene variants can explain how well vitamins like folate and vitamin D are absorbed, which can change supplement recommendations.
Caffeine: Genetic testing can determine how we respond to caffeine (slow vs fast metabolizers).
Is a genetic test necessary?
Overall, humans share 99% of the same genes… but that 1% gives us a lot of information. A genetic test (with the right interpretation) can provide you with specific nutritional recommendations which will improve personal health. Having said that, there are several examples of how nutrition affects all of our genes in similar ways. A classic example is inflammation. Acute inflammation is a natural process which helps us heal; however, chronic low-grade inflammation is problematic. Chronic inflammation is strongly linked with diabetes, heart disease, brain health, gut issues, and almost every other preventable illness. And guess what? Food has a major impact on reducing inflammation. For example, allium vegetables (like onions, garlic, & leeks) and cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, & brussels sprouts) can turn off the inflammatory TNF-alpha gene. This is a case of how nutrigenomics applies to everyone.
While there are more examples of this, obtaining a genetic test will take the personalization to the next level by allowing you to learn what to prioritize when it comes to your food choices.
What test do we recommend?
If you are interested in knowing more about how food affects your unique genes, it is important to be informed about which genetic test to get. There are a few fantastic tests out there; however we think there is one that stands above the rest: 3x4 Genetics.
What makes 3x4 Genetics different?
We think 3x4 is the best because of their rigorous science and methodology; in addition to how they translate the information to be easily understood and applied by the consumer. There are approximately 800,000 gene variants that can currently be tested, and 3x4 carefully selects the variants which have been thoroughly researched and are clinically relevant. Then they use polygenic risk scores to group genes together that have strong associations with certain health outcomes and apply them to biological pathways. This pathway-based approach makes the genetic report you get very practical and useful. 3x4 also does a brilliant job at providing you with a beautiful, user-friendly report which gives you real-life food and lifestyle recommendations to optimize your health.
How does it work with 3x4 Genetics?
1) 3x4 will deliver you a sample kit (https://3x4genetics.com)
2) You do the test, by simply taking a saliva swab of your mouth
3) Register your sample online
4) Send your sample to the lab for testing
5) Receive your report via email
6) Have an online appointment with a dietitian or clinician to go over your results
Many people want health and nutrition to be black and white. If you eat this… it will help with that. If you remove this ingredient… it will lead to this health outcome. The reality is that nutrition is anything but black and white, and we all respond differently to different foods and behaviors. Nutrigenomics is one tool that takes personalized nutrition to the next level. If you want to truly know how to optimize your long-term health, nutrigenomics is a field worth learning about. Keep in mind, a genetic test is not 100% necessary to understand the benefits of how food affects your genes. If you want to know more, consider the book: “The Genomic Kitchen: Your Guide To Understanding And Using The Food-Gene Connection For A Lifetime Of Health, by Amanda Archibald.” Of course, you can also schedule a one-on-one virtual nutrition consultation with an Inc Dietitian to learn more about how to achieve your personal health goals.
Archibald, Amanda, and Yael Joffe. "The role of nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics in clinical nutrition practice." ADCES in Practice 9.2 (2021): 34-40.
Mishra, Udit Nandan, et al. "Nutrigenomics: an inimitable interaction amid genomics, nutrition and health." Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies 82 (2022): 103196.
Peña-Romero, Alicia Cristina, et al. "The future of nutrition: Nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics in obesity and cardiovascular diseases." Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 58.17 (2018): 3030-3041.
Sellami, Maha, and Nicola Luigi Bragazzi. "Nutrigenomics and breast cancer: state-of-art, future perspectives and insights for prevention." Nutrients 12.2 (2020): 512.