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A new science, nutrigenomics, studies the interactions between food, genes and metabolism.
Objective: to improve our health by optimizing the preventive effects of appropriate nutrition. Explanations.
The idea seems utopian: to choose for each of your meals the precise ingredients that best suit your body. However, this is the promise of nutrigenomics, a discipline that combines genetics and nutrition. “Like a fashion boutique that offers models of clothing in different styles and categorized into standard sizes to suit the greatest number of customers, one could imagine specific supermarket shelves for groups of people who have a predisposition to become obese, to develop diabetes or for the elderly, imagines Professor Walter Wahli, founder of the Integrative Genomics Center of the University of Lausanne.
“Serious deficiencies can lead to sometimes irreversible changes in DNA“.
In full development for ten years, nutrigenomics transposes to the sciences of nutrition the advances made possible by the decryption of the human genome (the set of all the genes contained in our DNA ). Experts in the field observe the influence of genes on the effects that a diet can have.
The nutrients studied are generally classified into two categories: macronutrients (sugars, fats and proteins) provide the energy supply necessary for the development and proper functioning of the body, while micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, trace elements, Phyto – elements and essential fatty acids) present in very small quantities are essential for the maintenance of health. “Certain micronutrients, for example, exert a direct beneficial influence on gene activity,” explains Dr Prof. Walter Wahli.
Serious deficiencies can lead to sometimes irreversible changes in DNA. “This new field of nutrigenomics, a promising light on preventative medicine, which must cope with the rise in obesity, as well as associated pathologies, due to the mismatch between modern diets and sedentary lifestyles of populations. Inherited from our ancestors (populations needing to store as much energy as possible to overcome periods of nutritional deficiency), our genetic heritage plays a crucial role.
“Ultimately, nutrigenomics will make it possible to offer tailor-made dietary recommendations, which will take into account individual nutritional needs according to the genetic profile of the person, his age, his sex as well as his physical and professional activities. This new knowledge could improve the general health of the individual and, on a large scale, that of entire populations.
“Ultimately, nutrigenomics will offer tailored dietary recommendations. “
The medicine should also benefit: a suitable diet can indeed optimize the therapeutic effects of a treatment by strengthening, for example, the immune system (in the case of infectious diseases) or by minimizing the side effects of certain drugs.
The prospects offered by nutrigenomics are also of interest to the agro-food industry, which seeks to produce functional foods with particularly well-studied nutritional value as well as to develop plant species enriched in micronutrients.
Find out more: “Nutrigenomics on your plate – do genes also have their share of the pie” From Walter Wahli and Nathalie Constantin, ed. De Boeck.