In recent years, nutrigenetic tests have positioned themselves as a key tool within personalized nutrition; that is to say nutritional advice fully adapted and individualized to the person who requests it.
Nutrigenomics is part of nutrigenomics, the science that unites nutrition and genetics. Specifically, he studies how our genes can influence or determine the response to a particular nutrient or diet.
Good nutrition has a lot to do with genes
At birth, we inherit 50% of the genetic information from each of our parents, which makes us unique and irreplaceable. For this reason, each person will be more or less likely to develop a pathology, or will be predisposed to present a specific phenotype.
Food shouldn’t be less: more and more studies are coming out that show the health impact genetics can have on the way we eat. From this scientific evidence arises the need to analyze genetic variants closely related to diet and associated pathologies.
And how is it possible to analyze genetics? Technology is advancing rapidly every year, and what at the turn of the century today cost millions of dollars can be achieved at a very low cost in comparison. A person’s genetics (their DNA) can be analyzed through a blood sample, or more simply, using a saliva sample. The latter is the one that is generally used to perform nutrigenetic tests.
How does applied nutrigenomics work?
The sample collection process is very simple. The company or laboratory in question provides a kit, where you will find all the steps to follow easily and quickly. In the box is a tube to collect the saliva, and usually a preservative that will preserve the DNA until it is time to analyze it. It is only a small liquid that should be added directly to the sample before sending it to the address provided by the manufacturer.
The nutrigenetic analysis procedure is so minimally invasive and easy. However, to get the most suitable sample possible, there are several things to keep in mind. No need to eat or smoke for an hour or two before taking the sample. Brushing teeth or drinking anything other than water is also not recommended.
When the sample arrives at the laboratory, the process of extracting and purifying DNA from the saliva begins to then analyze the relevant genetic variants.
These variants are called single nucleotide polymorphisms, that is, variations of a single nitrogen base at a particular position in the genome. Therefore, it is not a mass sequencing test of all genetic material, but only very specific positions within the genome are analyzed.
The human genome is made up of over a trillion base pairs, so there are thousands of possible variations, the unique combination of which in an organism is what makes us unique and irreplaceable.
But then what are these variants that they analyze? Based on strong scientific evidence, variants that have been closely associated with food and predisposition to develop metabolic diseases are chosen, such as obesity or diabetes.
How does it help us estimate the risk of developing diseases?
Generally, each laboratory develops a genetic risk index which groups together the various variants selected linked to a parameter of interest. In other words, if it has been found that the presence of 8 variants predisposes to presenting a higher body mass index, they are all grouped together to develop the genetic risk index for obesity.
If a person has more than one of these variants, the genetic risk of developing obesity will be higher compared to another person who has only one or two variants. The genetic risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension or gluten intolerance are some of the parameters usually taken into account.. In addition, a person’s response to a particular diet or diet based on genetics is also studied.
Based on different variations, it can be determined whether a person will respond better or worse to a low-calorie or high-protein diet, for example. All this information is very useful for the dietitian-nutritionist when planning a diet taking into account the patient’s situation and goal. All of these results are usually presented in a more or less visual report, so that it is intuitive and easy to understand.
What is the best nutrigenetic test?
There are currently several companies and laboratories that offer this service.. Each nutrigenetic test will analyze some variants or others, depending on the criteria of the laboratory that developed it.
That is why it is very important to be well informed before opting for an option. It must have been developed by leading experts in the field whose scientific criteria are supported by years of experience and research.
Is this a test for life?
Yes, but there are several factors to consider. The genetic material we inherit from our parents will be the same for the rest of our lives. With the exception of point mutations that can occur throughout our lives, a person’s DNA does not change. Therefore, the same variant in the same position of the genome will be the same for a person whether it is analyzed by one laboratory or another.
However, this may change the interpretation of the results, as one expert panel may consider different variations than another expert group to be relevant. For this reason, it is interesting to learn about the scientific trajectory of the company or laboratory in question, such as the criterion of the scientific team behind each nutrigenetic test is very important.
In short, a nutrigenetic test can provide valuable information that helps the person determine their predisposition to the most common metabolic diseases. Likewise, the dietitian-nutritionist can use it to personalize the dietary recommendation as much as possible. The omics revolution is already here!
Oorenji: Precision nutrition that integrates Nutrigenetics
Oorenji is an interactive application that will help you easily plan your personalized weekly menu, ensuring nutritional balance and the recommended rations of each food (meat, fish, chicken, legumes, fruits, vegetables and grains).
Ooreji’s artificial intelligence algorithm takes into account in addition to each of the general and typical variables of the user (age, sex, physical activity or physical condition of the person), the integration of genetic information is obtained from an analysis of a saliva sample.
You can download it directly from the official Android and Apple stores.
Author: Marta Alonso, dietician-nutritionist.