In Sacramento, the University of California studies nutrition and genetics at its Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics, the Nutritional Genomics - University of California, Davis. The (CENG) at the University of California, Davis is 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 has begun 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.
The link between food and health is well documented but people still struggle to find the right balance between energy intake and energy expenditure. Whether its malnutrition or over-consumption, people are looking for disease preventing and health promoting foods that match their lifestyles, cultures and genetics. Nutritional genomics 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 developed 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 also uses mucosal immunity and bioactive foods to reduce cardiovascular disease, infectious disease and malnutrition.
Diet and genetics can influence the delicate balance between health and disease, and this knowledge can improve the lives of vulnerable populations both locally and globally. For example elsewhere in the nation, recently a Mayo Clinic researcher, along with his collaborators, has shown that an individual's genomic makeup and diet interact to determine which microbes exist and how they act in the host intestine.
This new study was modeled in germ-free knockout mice to mimic a genetic condition that affects 1 in 5 humans and increases the risk for digestive diseases. The findings appear in the current issue 2013 of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"Our data show that factors in the differences in a host's genetic makeup — in this case genes that affect carbohydrates in the gut — interact with the type of food eaten. That combination determines the composition and function of resident microbes," says Purna Kashyap, M.B.B.S., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and first author of the study, according to the September 25, 2013 news release, "Genetic makeup and diet interact with the microbiome to impact health." He is also a collaborator in the Microbiome Program of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine.
Significance of the Findings
Roughly 20 percent of humans lack the gene that encodes proteins for processing a specific carbohydrate, a sugar in the intestinal mucus called fucose. The interaction shown by the research team is valuable because many bacteria are adept at utilizing carbohydrates such as fucose, which are abundant in the gut.
Confronted with diets that have little or no complex plant sugars, these bacteria are forced to change their function, especially in hosts that lack fucose. This was seen with the altered metabolic gene expression of one of the key microbes in the gut — Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron. Changes in microbial membership or function as demonstrated in this study may, in turn, foster a "digestive landscape" that can promote inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's disease.
Your microbiome, the planet of bacteria in your gut and elsewhere, performs functions that keep your metabolism in place
The microbiome represents millions of microbes in the gut and elsewhere in the body. They perform specialized functions to help keep metabolism in balance. Whether in humans or other animals, the microbial combination is unique and must function well with the individual's genome and diet for a healthy existence.
Additional researchers on the study include Angela Marcobal, Ph.D.; Samuel Smits; Erica Sonnenburg, Ph.D.; Elizabeth Costello, Ph.D.; Steven Higginbottom; Susan Holmes, Ph.D.; David Relman, M.D.; and Justin Sonnenburg, Ph.D.; all of Stanford University; Luke Ursell, University of Colorado at Boulder; Rob Knight, Ph.D., Howard Hughes Medical Institute and University of Colorado at Boulder; Steve Domino, M.D., Ph.D., University of Michigan; and Jeffrey Gordon, M.D., Washington University.
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, the Walter and Idun Berry Foundation, and the Thomas and Joan Merigan Endowment at Stanford. Also check out these other studies, "Potential biases in US behavioral research" and "How humans may have evolved intelligence."