Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics
Nutrigenomics is the study of how food and nutrition impacts gene expression. For example, there has been som research conducted in the realm of soy intake and breast cancer risk/recurrence to determine if intake of this phytoestrogen impacts genetic expression that in turn causes cells to mutate into cancer. Nutrigenetics is the study of genetic predisposition for disease and how nutrient intake is impacted and can play a role in the disease.
Nutrigenetics Comes to Life
Until looking into this recently I hadn't really known how nutrigenetics applies in clinical care, but after much reading and on the shoulders of a fantastic professional group (shout out to Nutrition Entrepreneurs Dietetic Practice Group) I have come to learn a lot (still not enough!) about a gene mutation that impacts absorption of B vitamins.
That gene mutation is MTHFR. MTHFR is an abbreviation for a fancy-schmancy 25 letter word that describes a specific gene found on chromosome 1. If this gene is mutated, MTHFR enzyme is not made properly. If the MTHFR enzyme is not made properly, it can impact proper methylation of folate for absorption, other B vitamins such as B12 absorption, and the amino acid pathway that converts homocysteine into methionine (very important amino acids for protein formation). If something is going awry in these pathways, it can impact a whole host of conditions, including fatigue, heart disease, fibromyalgia, neurological disorders, fertility, and the list goes on.
I am unfairly trying to explain a wide array of metabolic pathways shortly into a blog post, so if interested I'd suggest reading more about it. The interesting part for us RDNs is learning to help read bloodwork and correlate clinical exam findings in helping to identify patients that would benefit from genetic testing. The most rewarding part is that the solution to the problem can be supplementing vitamins in their proper forms (in this case often methylated folate) that are going to be used efficiently by the body.
Don't you love a simple solution to a genetic problem? I do.