Nutrigenetics looks at an individual’s genetic predispositions and then uses nutrition and lifestyle to influence gene expression (this is known as epigenetics).
Many genes are fluid, meaning they have the ability to be turned on (expressed) or off (silenced) according to their environment. This is important to remember. Our genes are like complicated recipes, they tell our bodies what proteins to make and how to function. Sometimes within these genetic recipes there can be a few mixed up or missing “ingredients”; these are known as a genetic mutations or SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms. Pronounced snips).
Many genetic mutations have evolved over time in order to provide a health benefit, however with modern living this can now have the opposite effect. Some genetic mutations can predispose to disease, such as cardiovascular, dementia or cancer. If you have a family history of these diseases, then you may have inherited a genetic predisposition.
But remember, genes have to be switched on for this increased risk to be present. In another twist of genetic magic, a gene with no mutation can still behave as though it has inherited a mutation, if it is exposed to an adverse environment.
We often think our genes are our destiny, but as you can see it really is a lot more complicated than that!
Nutrigenetics tests for mutations in genes. Some of these genes are associated with disease states, others may look at our ability to detoxify, our neurotransmitter function (mood), our ability to absorb and utilise different nutrients, how easily we produce cellular energy, how acute is our stress response, how addictive is our personality. The list is very long. Nutrigenetic testing will only look at genes which influence health and which are open to modification through nutrition and lifestyle intervention.
Your genes are not your destiny
What nutrigenetic testing cannot tell us, is whether or not these genes are expressing. Or whether you have a “normal” gene that might be behaving as though it is mutated. For this we need to consider a full case history and the results of a functional test, (normally an organic acid test or similar) alongside a nutrigenetic analysis.