Only five years ago, most people thought that the average consumer was not ready for personalized nutrition that's customized and tailored to each individual's genetic signature and expression. But now it's a reality to customize food to individual needs, based on the genetic profile of the individual.
What industry actually is changing is the genetically modified foods and seeds that consumers can buy. Instead of tailoring the food (and diet) to best fit each individual human genetic profile, instead food (and seeds) are genetically changed to produce the biggest crop and fattest livestock. The goal is to feed billions of people as cheaply as possible and boost the goal of food security. What consumers wanted was food tailored to an individual's genetic requirements along with sustainability.
Here, in the Sacramento and Davis area, there's an awesome nutritional genetics center at the University of California, Davis known as The Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics (CENG). The CENG offers a program dedicated to promoting the study of nutritional genomics. The mission of the Center is to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities through the study of diet-genome interactions as they relate to chronic disease and certain cancers.
The Center currently is translating the results of nearly seven years of research, training and education on diet-genome interactions into tangible benefits that can prevent disease and improve human and animal health and wellness. Nutritional genomics (nutrigenomics) is a systems approach to understanding the relationship between diet and health and will ensure that everyone benefits from the genomic revolution. To help extend these benefits from Center research to the global health disparity community, the Center is developing the Global HealthShare® Initiative (GHSI).
The GHSI is an interdisciplinary consortium of researchers, organizations, public and private sector partners whose goal is to take proven nutrition- and immunity-based technologies and deliver them as health solutions to developing and low-income countries. The GHSI's initial focus will be to use mucosal immunity and bioactive foods to reduce cardiovascular disease, infectious disease and malnutrition.
What the Sacramento-Davis area has now is a research center for news and a variety of information on current developments and breakthroughs in fields of nutrition, genomics, and health that's accessible to everyone who wants to learn more about the way diet and genetics can influence the delicate balance between health and disease and how this knowledge can improve the lives of vulnerable populations both locally and globally.
Six percent of the population can eat almost anything and still live a long, healthy lifespan
A small percentage of people can eat almost anything in the standard diet of their area and live beyond 100, because they have more than enough cholesterol receptors on their liver or because their genes are hardwired to produce cholesterol particles so big, they leave arteries clean as a whistle, whereas others have genes that program the body to produce cholesterol particles so small, they clog up the arteries. Yet consumers really want foods produced commercially that are tailored, as in personalized nutrition to be healthier for enough people so that a market can be created to serve the needs of metabolic and genetic nutrition consumers.
Dutch researcher Amber Ronteltap suggests that the consumer market is not yet ready for this so-called nutrigenomics. Ronteltap concludes that many obstacles must be overcome before products based on nutrigenomics become a reality, according to the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research .
Nutrigenomics is a discipline that investigates the correlation between nutrients and the human genome. This area of science can contribute to public health and disease prevention by providing individuals with advice on specific adaptations in their nutrient regime. This form of personalized nutrition joins the bandwagon of broader marketing trends to develop products more tailored to the individual, according to the November 4, 2008 news release, "Consumer not ready for tailor-made nutrition."
For her doctoral research, Amber Ronteltap interviewed 29 experts from trade and industry, civil organizations, government, media and science. These interviews reveal that there is poor consensus on important questions such as: What exactly is nutrigenomics, within what time frame will it be usable in practice, and how is acceptance by consumers determined?
Based on these interviews with experts and an extensive literature study, Ronteltap developed different future scenarios to put to the general public. A representative random sample generated a number of conditions that consumers would require before accepting nutrigenomics.
The most important is freedom of choice: the guarantee that it would not be compulsory to register a genetic profile. The consumer also believes that the products being developed should provide proven (health) benefits and that their use should not disrupt the routine of daily life. The general public also wants to see clear scientific agreement about the usefulness of the possibilities provided by nutrigenomics.
As well as assessing the opinions of experts and consumers, Ronteltap made an analysis of conclusions from other scientific work in this area. She concludes that much needs to be done before people are able to and want to start using products that match their genetic profile.
Besides limitations in the marketing of personalized products, she also sees a clear gulf between the wishes of the consumer and the expectations of experts with respect to the feasibility of consumers' wishes. The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) in conjunction with the Netherlands Genomics Initiative funded the research within the program known as "the societal component of genomics research."
Genes can be modified by environment so that DNA is not always destiny
You are what your mother did not eat during pregnancy. How much is free will and how much is destined by your DNA when it comes to altering food, lifestyle, and attitude? The new science of epigenetics can open some doors to answers. Check out the news release, "The new 'epigenetics:' Poor nutrition in the womb causes permanent genetic changes in the offspring."But the studies were done with lab rats. Check out the original study or its abstract, "Epigenetics: intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) modifies the histone code along the rat hepatic IGF-1 gene." FASEB Journal.
New research study in the FASEB Journal explains how poor maternal nutrition passes health risk across generations. The new science of epigenetics explains how genes can be modified by the environment, and a prime result of epigenetic inquiry has just been published online in The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal.
The study showed when it came to looking at rats, you indeed are what your mother did not eat during pregnancy. In the research report, scientists from the University of Utah show that rat fetuses receiving poor nutrition in the womb become genetically primed to be born into an environment lacking proper nutrition. What the mother ate predisposed the rats by shaping their world of genetic adaptation.
As a result of this genetic adaptation, the rats were likely to grow to smaller sizes than their normal counterparts. At the same time, they were also at higher risk for a host of health problems throughout their lives, such as diabetes, growth retardation, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and neurodevelopmental delays, among others. Although the study involved rats, the genes and cellular mechanisms involved are the same as those in humans.
"Our study emphasizes that maternal–fetal health influences multiple healthcare issues across generations," said Robert Lane, in the news release, "The new 'epigenetics:' Poor nutrition in the womb causes permanent genetic changes in the offspring." Dr. Lane is a professor of pediatric neonatology at the University of Utah, and one of the senior researchers involved in the study. "To reduce adult diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, we need to understand how the maternal–fetal environment influences the health of offspring."
The scientists made this discovery through experiments involving two groups of rats
The first group was normal. The second group had the delivery of nutrients from their mothers' placentas restricted in a way that is equivalent to preeclampsia. The rats were examined right after birth and again at 21 days (21 days is essentially a preadolescent rat) to measure the amount of a protein, called IGF-1, that promotes normal development and growth in rats and humans.
They found that the lack of nutrients caused the gene responsible for IGF-1 to significantly reduce the amount of IGF-1 produced in the body before and after birth. The key to this is that the gene responsible for IGF-1 promotes normal development in both humans and rats. You don't want your IGF-1 reduced, it can age you rapidly and even predispose you to strokes because you don't have enough of that IGF-1 in your system.
What is IGF-1 and why is it important in humans?
IGF-1 or Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is a polypeptide protein hormone similar in molecular structure to insulin. Its action is very much important in childhood growth and continues to have anabolic effects in adults.
IGF-1 consists of 70 amino acids in a single chain with three intermolecular disulfide bridges. IGF-1 is produced primarily by the liver as an endocrine hormone as well as target tissues in a paracrine/autocrine fashion. Production is stimulated by growth hormone and can be slowed down by under nutrition, growth hormone insensitivity, lack of growth hormone receptors and other factors.
IGF-1 is one of the most potent natural activators of the AKT signaling pathway, a stimulator of cell growth and multiplication and a potent inhibitor of programmed cell death. So you want good nutrition before you're even born. But none of us can select what his or her mother eats when pregnant or even before. That's when epigenetics kicks in to be of concern to the average consumer.
Nature is changed by nurture
"The new 'epigenetics' has taught us how nature is changed by nurture," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, according to the press release. "The jury's in and, yes, expectant moms really are eating for two. This study shows not only that we need to address problems such as preeclampsia during pregnancy, but also that prenatal care is far more important than anyone could have imagined a decade ago."
Check out the original study or its abstract, "Epigenetics: intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) modifies the histone code along the rat hepatic IGF-1 gene." FASEB Journal. Authors are Qi Fu, Xing Yu, Christopher W. Callaway, Robert H. Lane, and Robert A. McKnight."
Metabolic and genetic nutrition is a rapidly advancing applied science
Are you interested in a nutrition career and at the same time curious about genetics and the human genome? Are you looking for a career with practical applications to helping people tailor foods to best fit their metabolic or genetic variations?
On the job, you might have to help patients find low-protein food products to tailor their diets to their genetic variations. Other patients would have different nutritional needs. Frequently not only dietitians, but nurses and genetic counselors may enter the field of genetic/metabolic dietetics/nutrition with further education and training.
Interestingly, some social workers with further training become genetic counselors just as some nurses with further training become registered dietitians specializing in genetic/metabolic nutrition. It's also an open field for biochemistry majors as well as genetics students taking a minor in dietetics and food science. And food science majors can minor in genetics.
It's an open door with a career ladder. For another nutrition-related career alternative, see the USA article of August 14, 2005, New Degree Programs Produce Chef Scientists. And view the article, "DeBusk RM, Fogarty CP, Ordovas JM, et al. "Nutritional genomics in practice: Where do we begin?" Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2005;105(4):589-598. Also see the article, "Hot New Careers in Dietetics," by Mary Franz, MS, RD, LD in Today's Dietitian, Vol. 9, No.7, page 52.
There's a career path in nutrigenomics, which explores the interaction of genes, diet, and lifestyle factors to develop strategies to prevent, slow the progression of, or reverse chronic diseases. One area under research is tailoring your food, lifestyle, and supplements to your individual metabolic and genetic variations. Studying nutrition-related chronic disease is another area of research.
Clinical dietitians may specialize in using genetic and biochemical risk factor profiles to work with patients in order to develop personalized care plans for individuals diagnosed with chronic diseases. Another area of work and research is studying nutrition-related diseases, especially the chronic illnesses and nutritional or chemical imbalances in patients due to genetic or metabolic variations. A different career area is genetic testing and counseling combined with nutrition therapy to patients, where the dietitian works in a specialty area with physicians, such as a gastroenterology practice.
To reach the top in a specialty, you'd need to be a registered dietician (RD) and also earn a PhD in dietetics/nutrition with a special emphasis. The career ladder would be different for a registered dietitian with a B.S. or M.S. working in a hospital or for an HMO counseling patients who need customized or special diets, such as diabetics or persons with kidney diseases.
But you don't have to have an alternative career. You can become a genetic/metabolic dietitian or nutrition consultant without having to study for some other related health career first. You'd combine the study of nutrition/dietetics with the study of genetics, and you don't have to go to medical school to land a stable job in this field. Here's how to explore this career possibility.
What does a genetic/metabolic nutritionist do on the job, and what type of training is required? You work with patients and their physicians to find the best tailored diet and nutritional information for an individual's genetic variation. First, you should prepare to be a licensed dietitian.
Then you might wish to join Genetic Metabolic Dietitians International (GMDI). They also have a job listings site for members. Find an accredited college that prepares you to take the national exam to become a licensed dietitian emphasizing special diets. Ask how many students have passed the national exam after taking a nutrition, dietetics, or food science major at that school.
According to its site, "The mission of GMDI is to provide standards of excellence and leadership in nutrition therapy for genetic metabolic disorders through clinical practice, education, advocacy, and research. GMDI members are leading practitioners in nutrition therapy who have joined together to identify education and training needs and to develop standards of practice in this highly specialized field. Membership provides opportunities for professional education and research, as well as networking and peer support."
The mission of GMDI, according to its web site, is to provide standards of excellence and leadership in nutrition therapy for genetic metabolic disorders through clinical practice, education, advocacy, and research. GMDI members are leading practitioners in nutrition therapy who have joined together to identify education and training needs and to develop standards of practice in this highly specialized field. Membership provides opportunities for professional education and research, as well as networking and peer support.
Beginning in 2005, a group of experienced dietitians from both the US and Canada joined together to develop a professional organization to enhance and support the practice of genetic metabolic nutrition. That organization, GMDI, is now incorporated as a nonprofit professional organization specifically for nutritionists and other health care practitioners working in this specialty.
Today, GMDI provides leadership in nutrition therapy for genetic metabolic disorders through clinical practice, education, advocacy, and research. Membership in the organization provides opportunities for professional education, research, networking, training and peer support.
Fulfilling the Mission of GMDI began in April 2006 with the First Annual GMDI Metabolic Nutrition Conference. This meeting showcased key issues in newborn screening and clinical management of genetic metabolic diseases, and provided interactive, hands-on opportunities for both experienced dietitians and those who were new to the field.
The association site notes, "Genetic Metabolic Dietitians International (GMDI) Is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice." How do you become a genetic metabolic dietitian in the first place? If you study at an accredited university with a food science, nutrition, or dietetics major that also has been accredited, take the course of studies that emphasizes preparing you to become a licensed dietitian, and you pass the national exam, you can then specialize in genetic and metabolic dietetics/nutrition.
You aren't required to join any organization to become a dietitian. If you do decide to join one of the professional associations, find out whether they are open only to licensed dietitians or to anyone interested in reporting nutritional information. GMDI has developed guidelines for MCADD and VLCADD. If you're a member of GMDI, you can view these guidelines and have the opportunity to provide your feedback, based on your professional experience in managing these disorders. Members also can add comments to the site.
MCADD refers to medium chain acyl CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (MCADD) is caused by mutations in the medium chain acyl CoA dehydrogenase (MCAD) gene leading to insufficient enzymatic activity to allow complete mitochondrial beta oxidation of fatty acids. Genetics: MCADD is inherited as an autosomal recessive disorder. The gene is found on 1p31 and has 12 exons (2,3). The most common mutation, among those of Northern European descent , is 985A>G ( K329E). View the MCADD site for further descriptions, medical disclaimers, and symptoms of MCADD.
VLCADD refers to very Long Chain Acyl CoA Dehydrogenase Deficiency (VLCADD) is an autosomal recessive disorder caused by mutations in the acyl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase gene leading to insufficient enzymatic activity to allow complete mitochondrial beta-oxidation of long chain fatty acids. Long chain fats contain carbon lengths of 14 or greater. View the VLCADD site for further descriptions, medical disclaimers, and symptoms of VLCADD. VLCADD is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner.
The exact incidence of VLCADD is not established. It is estimated to affect 1 in 40,000 to 120,000 people. Individuals with a positive newborn screening are seen at metabolic centers for further testing before the diagnosis can be confirmed.
Confirmatory testing usually includes plasma acylcarnitine profile, plasma carnitine, urine organic acids, enzyme analysis, and mutational analysis. See American College of Medical Genetics Guidelines. Incidence: In the US, the incidence is ~ 1 in 10,000 births among Caucasians. There is a lower incidence among African Americans and Latinos
You don't have to be a member to view the MCADD or VLADD sites. The career of genetic/metabolic dietitian entails being a licensed dietitian emphasizing special diets that are tailored to patients with special genetically-based and metabolically-based food/nutrition requirements.
Metabolic Medical Food Companies
PO Box 1317
Columbus, OH 43216
Applied Nutrition, Corp
10 Saddle Road
Cedar Knolls, NJ 07927
Low Protein Foods
(low protein foods)
Milupa, North America
22513 Gateway center Drive
Clarksburg, MD 20871
Medical Department (Products)
2400 West Lloyd Expressway
Evansville, IN 47721
Nutricia North America
PO Box 117
Gaithersburg, MD 20884
One Research Court
Rockville, MD 20850
123 East Neck Road
Huntington, NY 11743
American College of Medical Genetics (ACMG)
American Dietetic Association (ADA)
American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG)
Association of Genetic Technologists (AGT)
International Society of Nurses in Genetics (ISONG)
Genetic Metabolic Dietitians International (GMDI)
National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG)
National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC)
Society of Inherited Metabolic Disorders (SIMD)
Nutritional Genomics Resources
• Centre of Excellence in Nutrigenomics (New Zealand)
• The Dutch Nutrigenomics Consortium
• The European Nutrigenomics Organization
• The NCMHD Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics