It’s simple: genetics can influence diet and diet can influence genetics
The relationship between genetics and nutrition is two-sided. On the one hand, people’s genetic makeup can influence how they process different foods; on the other, their dietary choices will affect their genetics for generations to come.
Nutrigenomics takes center stage in this relationship. It is the study of interactions between food and genetics: how foods and nutrients affect gene expression, and the way genes are translated into specific traits that determine our response to food and certain nutritional supplements.
Gluten, Caffeine and Salt
Slow Caffeine Metabolism
Gluten sensitivity, caffeine metabolism and the connection between blood pressure and salt intake are good examples of the link between genes and food.
Gluten Sensitivity: Your ability to properly metabolize gluten (a protein found in wheat and several other cereal grains) is largely determined by your genetics. Although the genetics is complex, some of the strongest genetic associations with gluten sensitivity and the development of celiac disease lie in the HLA genes. The HLA proteins are expressed on the surface of your cells and your immune system uses them to distinguish between your body and any antigen-bearing foreign material that enters your body. These are the same genes that help determine whether or not a person is a match for a potential organ donation. So, people with certain HLA types (like the one tagged by the SNP rs2187668) are more likely to have the autoimmune reaction to gluten that causes the intestinal issues seen in celiac disease. People with a genetic predisposition to gluten sensitivity may benefit from a gluten free diet if they notice intestinal issues after eating foods containing gluten. Although having genetic markers alone does not mean that you will be gluten sensitive, it’s a scientific proven indicator of a risk which you may develop.
Caffeine metabolism: The SNP rs762551 in the CYP1A2 gene determines whether you are a fast or slow metabolizer of caffeine. People who have the AA genotype are fast metabolizers. Fast metabolizers break down the caffeine they consume more quickly, so they feel the stimulant effect of the caffeine for a shorter period of time. These people are more likely to be high coffee consumers, drinking more cups through the day in order to continue feeling the effects of the caffeine. On the other hand, people who inherited a C allele from one or both parents are slow metabolizers of caffeine. They tend to drink fewer cups of coffee because they feel the stimulant effect of each cup for a longer period of time.
Salt Sensitivity: High blood pressure has been associated with risk of various diseases. However, diet doesn’t affect everyone’s blood pressure the same way. For example, certain genetic mutations cause blood pressure to be more responsive to salt in the diet, known as salt sensitivity. People with these mutations should take more care to monitor the amount of salt in their diets and may consider switching to a low sodium diet if they have high blood pressure. However, for other people without those mutations, switching to a low sodium diet may have little effect in improving their blood pressure.
Proper diet with sufficient nutrients is a vital step for influencing your health. It also has a major effect on your genetics which will be passed to the next generation. When your cells consume energy, they release free radicals into your body, causing oxidative stress that damages your cells similar to an apple turning brown when exposed to air. In a healthy body this oxidative stress is balanced by protective antioxidants. Lifestyle and environmental factors such as smoking, high sugar diet, emotional stress and air pollution can also increase your oxidative stress. Too much oxidative stress in your body can cause damage to your DNA. Consuming foods rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, can help combat oxidative stress and protect your DNA. When you cannot get all the essential nutrients from food, considering supplementation is a crucial action for a healthier body and mind.
As more aspects of our genetics become understood, we will learn more about ourselves — how we metabolize different foods, if we have a risk of vitamin deficiencies, or how our bodies react to different lifestyle factors. This includes exercise choices, dietary plans and the supplements you would benefit from taking.
Vitagene is at the forefront of nutrigenomics. We help you navigate your genetics and make more informed lifestyle choices to achieve your health outcomes. Our DNA service takes into account your genetics, lifestyle and health goals to tailor nutrition and supplementation plans specific to your needs. Our scientific database is continuously updated insuring the recommendations Vitagene makes for you take into account the latest research.