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Personalised Nutrition - Is it in our Genes?

 

Personalised nutrition is a hot topic at the minute in the wellness industry. The idea that our health is influenced by our DNA is well established, but the role it plays in our nutrition is a bit of a new frontier. Is it possible that tiny variations in our DNA mean that some people have no problem eating lots of carbs or drinking lots of alcohol and others don’t? To understand this concept, let’s go back to basics.

 

Our DNA is a long strand of protein that is found in every cell of our body, and while 99.9% of our DNA is identical to every other human, that 0.1% is what makes each person unique. Our DNA contains the code for everything that happens in our body, and that is why when something goes wrong with our DNA, a variety of conditions can occur. There are a lot of ways that our DNA can go wrong or be damaged, however one specific mechanism has become the focus of personalised nutrition – single nucleotide polymorphisms. These variations, called SNPs for short, are tiny changes in one letter out of billions in our DNA. Because these changes are so small, they rarely lead to a full-blown condition but instead slightly alter the function of things in the human body. It is these small changes that are thought to play a role in our response to food.

 

Here are some of the areas that researchers have found a link between SNPs and the following responses to food:

  • Alcohol: SNPs make some of us feel the effects of alcohol quicker and break it down slower, meaning that some people have a lower tolerance than others.
  • Saturated fat: SNPs can change our sensitivity to saturated fat in the diet and its effect on weight gain.
  • Caffeine: SNPs that control our metabolism of caffeine mean that some people can deal with a lot more caffeine than others.
  • Cholesterol: SNPs can influence our cholesterol levels and how we respond to cholesterol in our diet
  • Fat tissue: SNPs can affect a molecule that is in charge of creating new fat tissue and how easily you gain fat.
  • Exercise: SNPs can change your sensitivity to exercise and the level of exercise you need to see beneficial effects.

 

As you can see, research is showing that our genes can have an influence on many areas of our diet and lifestyle and that list is only growing. Personalised nutrition is focused on the idea that we should tailor our diets and lifestyles to suit our DNA and that this will be optimal for our health. For some people that may mean that they should drink a bit less or include more carbohydrates and for others it may mean they should eat less saturated fat. One thing to keep in mind is that while these variations undoubtedly have an effect, these effects are slight differences in your sensitivity. So, although you may find out you are sensitive to caffeine or fat, that does not mean you need to cut them out of your diet completely. A healthy diet is a balanced diet that includes the things you love, so while it is great to know a bit more about your DNA and optimise your diet, it doesn’t mean that you can’t eat normally!

 

Want to know a bit more about personalised nutrition and getting your DNA tested? The theme of our Meal Prep Expo this year is the Future of Personalised Nutrition and will feature talks from GenSmart, a company that provide DNA testing, and Fresh Fitness Food who will also be talking about why personalised nutrition may be the future of the wellness industry. The expo is on the 17th of February, so get your tickets here and come down to find out more about this new frontier of nutrition.

 

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