You and two friends decided to try a ketogenic diet because you read that this type of high-fat, low-carb approach has been scientifically proven to help people lose weight safely and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
After three months on the diet, one of your friends has lost 15 pounds and feels great. You haven’t gained or lost a pound. Your other friend has actually gained five pounds and is becoming depressed.
How is it possible that three people could respond so differently to the same diet? Nutrigenomics often has the answer.
In a previous post, I introduced nutrigenomics, the scientific study of how nutrients interact with genes and influence genetic behavior. Although it’s relatively new to Natural Healthcare Center, Dr. Coetzee and I have studied nutrigenomics extensively and have already used it to help dozens of patients identify the root cause of health issues.
Because nutrigenomics has such tremendous potential in the treatment and prevention of chronic illness, I wanted to explain the topic in more detail and offer examples about how we’ve used nutrigenomics in clinical practice.
The first thing that needs to be clarified is that the presence of a certain gene does not doom you to a certain fate, and it’s certainly not a death sentence.
Genes are like light switches. They can be turned on and off. The flipping of the switch is called an epigenetic change.
Epigenetic changes are caused by environmental factors and lifestyle choices, like toxins you’re exposed to, foods you eat and medication you take. The genes themselves don’t change, but turning them on or off can have a significant impact on your health.
Through genetic testing (23andme) and analysis (Opus 23) involving about 15 algorithms, nutrigenomics tells you the genes you have, which ones you to switch on, and which ones you want to switch off.
Using this information, we can tell you how certain nutrients, environmental pollutants and other factors affect your genes and overall health. This empowers you to make smarter health decisions so you can feel better, function better and live longer.
Going back to the example at the beginning this article, three different people could very well respond differently to the same dietary protocols because of their genetic makeup. As I always say, there’s no one-size-fits-all diet that works for everyone. Thanks to nutrigenomics, it’s possible to eat based on your genetics.
This is a prime example of the role of nutrigenomics in clinical practice. Why isn’t the patient responding to normal therapy? Why is the patient experiencing problems when the vast majority of patients have been successful?
That’s when we start doing genetic evaluations. Nutrigenomics allows us to dig deeper into these cases and get to the source of the problem.
You may have heard of the Human Genome Project, a massive research program that was conducted to understand and map all human genes. This study found that a human isn’t as complex an organism as we once thought. Humans have about 20,000 to 25,000 genes – fewer than fruit flies.
The findings of the Human Genome Project also motivated scientists to perform deeper analysis into how food affects genes and how these changes affect human health. This led to the science of nutrigenomics, which can not only explain your response to treatment, but also help you reduce the risk of everything from Azheimer’s disease and certain cancers to depression and obesity.
In the next post, I’ll share real-world examples of how we’ve used nutrigenomics at Natural Healthcare Center and discuss what the future holds for nutrigenomics.