Nutrigenetics and nutraceuticals: the next wave riding on personalized medicine

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The Human Genome Project and subsequent identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within populations has played a major role in predicting individual response to drugs (pharmacogenetics) leading to the concept of “personalized medicine.” Nutritional genomics is a recent off-shoot of this genetic revolution that includes (1) nutrigenomics: the study of interaction of dietary components with the genome and the resulting proteonomic and metabolomic changes; and (2) nutrigenetics: understanding the gene-based differences in response to dietary components and developing nutraceuticals that are most compatible with health based on individual genetic makeup. Despite the extensive data on genetic polymorphisms in humans, its translation into medical practice has been slow because of the time required to accumulate population data on SNP incidence, understand the significance of a given SNP in disease, and develop suitable diagnostic tests. Nutrigenomics revitalized the field by showing that nutrients and botanicals can interact with the genome and modify subsequent gene expression, which has provided a great impetus for nutrigenetic research and nutraceutical development based on nutrigenetics. Polymorphisms in methlyene tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) (involved in folate metabolism), apolipoprotein E (Apo E) and ApoA1 (in cardiovascular disease), and leptin/leptin receptor (obesity) genes are some good examples for understanding basic nutrigenetics. Developing nutraceuticals to prevent and manage thrombosis risk in women with thrombophilic gene mutations are discussed in the context of the opportunities that exist at the nutrigenetic/pharmacogenetic interphase leading to “personalized nutrition.” Further research on individual differences in genetic profiles and nutrient requirements will help establish nutrigenetics as an essential discipline for nutrition and dietetics practice.

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