Could your morning cup — or three — of joe increase your risk of high blood pressure or a heart attack? Will you lose weight on a high-protein diet, or do you need carbs to shed pounds?
Every person’s body is different, and the science of nutrigenomics uses genetic testing to determine how the foods we eat impact our genes.
“Nutrigenomics looks at the relationship between genomics, nutrition and our health, and how — based on our genes — nutrients affect us and influence our body,” says Alexis Supan, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Center for Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine. “It’s easier to follow a certain diet if you have the science saying that it will be good for you.”
She helps us understand how nutrigenomics works and what it can teach us about our bodies.
Q: How did nutrigenomics develop?
A: It’s fairly new in terms of overall science and health, but we’ve been doing gene testing for some time. It started in the 1990s with the Human Genome Project and mapping out DNA.
That laid the groundwork for nutrigenomic testing, and we have increased our understanding of how specific genes influence how our body responds to micronutrients and macronutrients.
You can feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle when it comes to weight loss, but a blueprint of what’s good for your body can make your efforts more successful and reduce stress.
Q: How does the testing work?
A: In our department, it’s an at-home saliva test. If you’ve ever done ancestry.com, it’s very similar. You spit into a tube and mail it in. Results come to Cleveland Clinic in three to six weeks.
Then, patients get a consult, during which time I review the results with them and explain what it all means. Based on this, patients might follow up for regular dietetic appointments.
Q: What are some discoveries the testing reveals?
A: This specific test is broken down into a number of categories: nutrient metabolism; cardiometabolic health; weight management and body composition; eating habits; food intolerances; and fitness and physical activity.
We can identify whether you might be at risk for a nutritional deficiency — for example identifying challenges with utilizing folate or genetic predispositions impacting nutrient needs for Vitamin A or B12.
We can learn if you are predisposed to food intolerances to gluten or lactose, and we can see how your body reacts to physical activity.
By looking at your genes, we can see that some people gain strength and muscle easily, while others benefit more from cardio activity such as running or swimming.
From that, we can encourage people to invest their time and energy in what works best for their bodies.
We can also tell who is a fast or slow metabolizer of caffeine, which can impact your anxiety level and risk for cardiovascular disease.
Nutrigenomics gives you really personalized information about how nutrition impacts your body.
Q: Who can benefit from nutrigenomic testing?
A: Honestly, everyone. If you’ve ever tried dieting and feel like you should be getting more results or changed health habits and thought, ‘I’m not seeing the impact like I should be,’ starting with this testing can be fantastic.
You’ll have a great guide and you’ll know that what you’re doing is perfect for your body.