Guest Writer Feature: Nutrigenomics: The Future of Health and Medicine by Jose Mario Salazar

Today's article is written by MindMover intern Mario Salazar, a student of BS Public Health from University of the Philippines - Manila. 

Imagine a world where your diet and the medicine you take are all made specifically for you, a world where you no longer have to doubt the effect your medicine has on your body because the pills you pop in your mouth practically have your name stamped on them; a world where no two persons can eat the exact same meal because you know that the food beneficial for someone may not be so good for another.

This world of personalized food and medicine may not be as far-fetched as you probably think, all thanks to Nutrigenomics.

[Photo credit: MedCity News website]

The science of Nutrigenomics is an emerging field in the health sciences that deals with how the food we eat affects our genes and how genetic differences or polymorphisms among people affect how our bodies respond to nutrients in our food, these responses being either an increase or decrease in the risk for disease. The ultimate goal of Nutrigenomics is to develop a personalized and individualized approach to health and medicine through understanding our nutritional needs based on our genetic make-up. 

All of this became possible because of the completion of the Human Genome Project, in which scientists completely sequenced the entire genetic information of a person. This is analogous to finishing a handbook or a manual on how to "make" a human. With this came the advent of DNA testing: knowing which genes can cause health problems for an individual and try to prevent that disease from ever happening by "switching off" the gene through personalized medication and nutrition planning.

[Photo credit: Guardian website]

Here are some examples of food components that people have been found to react to in different ways due to genetic variations:

Caffeine has been found to reduce the risk of heart attacks in a great number of people but recent studies show that some individuals may have the opposite response to caffeine: an increased risk for heart disease. This is because we have different versions of the gene CYP1A2 which produces the protein for the breakdown of caffeine in the liver.

[Photo credit: Clink website]

Fish oil's effect of reducing blood lipid level may also be subject to variation among people because of different versions of the PPARg gene. Some may also respond more positively than others because of a better version of the gene.

Another example to demonstrate polymorphisms is how some people can eat a lot of sugary, sweet foods and not develop insulin resistance and diabetes, while others experience the opposite. Studies show that a particular variety of the TCF7L2 gene results in low insulin secretion after ingestion and sugar, and results in a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes.

[Photo credit: Wikipedia website]

Other body processes that are influenced by genetic variations include lactose intolerance, food allergies, vitamin D metabolism and bone development, weight loss, and muscle development.

Our genetic differences have also been found to have an effect on our food preferences. The strength and vividness of taste differ with each person because of polymorphisms on genes that code for our taste buds. This is why some foods appear to have a more intense flavor for some, while tasting bland and flat for others. Our brain's reward system is also affected by our genes. Different food components will have different effects on the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which influence our mood and behavior. This is why, on a bad day, some of us seem to always crave for a slice of chocolate cake while others would rather have a bowl of spicy ramen.

Even though we are only still seeing the tip of the iceberg, what we have uncovered so far has led us to believe that the future of health will be all about prevention. Through DNA analysis, we can learn the risk of future disease in an individual and focus on things that will help him or her achieve and maintain optimum health. This may be in the form of a diet or lifestyle change, or personal medication.

Ultimately, the knowledge we gain through the study of Nutrigenomics can help us to solve the centuries-old problem of global malnutrition and disease. 


1. Berardi, J. (n.d.). "Nutrigenomics: This Research Changes Everything." Retrieved July 24 2015 from:
2.   European Food Information Council. (2002). "Nutrition and the Human Genome (Part 2). Retrieved July 24 2015 from:
3. Health Direct Australia. (2012). "Neural Tube Defect." Retrieved July 23 2015 from:
4.     LifeGenetics. (n.d.). "Nutrigenomics or Nutrigenetics - The Science About Nutrition Personalized to Your Genetic Profile." Retrieved July 21 2015 from:
5.  National Human Genome Research Institute. (2010). "Human Genome Project Completion: Frequently Asked Questions." Retrieved July 24 2015 from
6.   The NCMHD Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics. (2012). "Information - Nutritional Genomics". Retrieved July 21 2015 from
7. Pryce, ND. (2015). "Nutrigenomics: How Food Affects Our Genes" (Lecture). Retrieved from:


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