Nutritional Genomics

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on April 9, 2006 · 0 comments

Sounds pretty scientific, but in practice it is simply the study of how food and other lifestyle choices influence a person’s genes or hereditary make-up.

The Human Genome Project has allowed scientists to develop a roadmap of each human gene. This map helps researchers find common gene variations. People with these variations are at greater risk of developing certain diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Sound worrying? The advantage is, if you know your risk, you can do something about it.

The food you eat transmits information from your environment to the genetic material in your cells. This information can switch genes on or off, provide raw materials that are in short supply, or introduce substances that can prevent or promote disease. Simply put, the right good food choices promote your health, while bad food choices can make you sick.

Being overweight heightens your genetic risk for diseases, especially type 2 diabetes. If a person never gains extra weight, their risk of developing diabetes is almost eliminated. When you practice prevention, your genes can have little or no effect of your health risk.

In the future, genetic testing will be more commonplace. It will help your doctor target medicines and lifestyle changes that are individualized to your risks. Food manufactures will also develop more functional foods – those that contain beneficial or disease-preventing properties. Some of these foods have already been identified.

For a healthy… Eat… Found in…


heart soluble fibers soluble fibers oat bran, barley, fruits,
vegetables, fiber supplements
flavonoids fruits, juices, tea
plant stanols and sterols enriched margarine, yogurt, orange juice, dark chocolate
omega-3 fatty acids salmon, flaxseed,walnuts, omega-3 rich eggs


immune system lycopene tomatoes and tomato products (even ketchup)
phytonutrients fruits, vegetables, tea, red wine


blood sugar levels fiber fruits, vegetables, dry beans, whole grains
mineral-rich foods nuts, low fat dairy foods, whole grains


Your genetic profile = what you can be.

Your genetic profile + your environment = what you will be.

You can’t control your genes, but you can control your environment.

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