Is the field of nutrigenomics real science or closer to science fiction?
DNA-Driven Health Care?
Since the sequencing of the human genome, the hope has been that we will be able to personalize medicine like never before…reading your genes like a map, seeing exactly which diseases or conditions you’re likely to develop, how you’re likely to respond to various drugs, foods, or nutrients, and using that information to design a protocol just for you. And there’s no doubt that we’ve seen huge advances in genetic science, which allow us to treat patients more effectively.
Genetic testing can predict whether tumors are likely to be resistant or sensitive to certain chemotherapy agents, for example. On the other hand, our understanding of which genes are involved in the development of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, or even the tendency toward obesity—and how those genes interact with lifestyle factors such as diet and nutrition—is in its infancy.
For one thing, most conditions are influenced by dozens or even hundreds of genes. We may only know about one or two of them. Secondly, environmental factors, including diet and lifestyle, have an enormous impact on how or whether certain genes express themselves. In other words, your genes are not your destiny.
A patient with two diabetic parents may or may not have a genetic predisposition to Type 2 diabetes. Either way, I’d wager that the family’s eating habits and household food culture probably pose a larger threat. More importantly, genetic testing that revealed a Type 2 diabetes gene probably wouldn’t alter my advice in any significant way.
DNA-Based Nutrition: Leapfrogging the Science
Unfortunately, several companies have leapfrogged the scientific reality to get to the marketing opportunity.