Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Prevalence of life style disorders like diabetes, heart ailments, hypertension and others have created enormous opportunities to innovating food technologists to work for the affected population in designing and developing newly engineered food products which can bring great relief to these unfortunate consumers, helping them to lead almost normal life. Nutritionists of yesteryears deserve all kudos for unraveling the basics of human nutrition during the last century and bringing out the connections between various micro nutrients and deficiency diseases. The multi billion food supplements and pharmaceutical industries are churning out literally hundreds of products to meet the challenges posed by nutrient stress conditions and ensure human well being.
It was a remarkable transition, in many parts of the world where affluence increased the affordability factor, from a nutrient-deficit to a nutrient-plenty situation which resulted in disorders like Type II diabetes, obesity and other afflictions linked to regular consumption of improper and imbalanced foods. The exact scientific causes that are responsible for these disorders are still not completely understood. With plethora of information, often contradictory in nature, available to the consumer, what foods are ideal for different ailments remain a matter of conjecture. Prevailing confusion is exploited by many commercial organizations to make unsustainable and tall claims for their foods in maintaining good health.
Nutrigenomics is a new emerging science that offers lot of hopes to future generations in understanding what foods are best for them based on genomic studies. It is a study of molecular relationship between nutrition and the response of genes. The interaction of nutrition and genetics is found to influence the choice of foods for each individual with distinct genetic make up. A disease like Alzheimer's is widely prevalent in USA, affecting 3.1% of its population and similarly the population in Southern India is reported to be most susceptible to heart diseases, probably indicating the role of genes in manifesting such diseases. World wide the food industry brings out hundreds of specialty health products, 54.9% being heart-health foods, 25.4% for diabetes and 19.7% for bone and joint health.  
The study of the effect of nutrients on the genome, proteome and metabolme forms the core agenda of Nutrigenomics. This naturally is causing a shift in the nutrition research from epidemiology and physiology to molecular biology and genetics. Nutrigenomics seeks to describe the patterns of effects of various food components on the genes, referred to as dietary signatures. Different diets elicit different patterns of gene and protein expression and metabolic production. It also seeks to study the influence of nutrition on homeostasis.
Diet is a determined by the specific demands of an individual's genetic signature which balances the micro and macro nutrient needs of that individual. It is a fact that diet is a critical factor in chronic diseases and has been found to be responsible for a third of all cancers. Dietary chemicals change the expression of one's genes and even the genome itself. "Eat right for your genotype" may well be the slogan within a decade's time.
It is in the realm of possibility that in the not too distant future, all an individual has to do is to send his blood sample to one of the many genomic laboratories expected to be established where it will be analyzed in a mass spectro photometer for the protein make up and cross referenced to his DNA profile. The results will be the basis for a recommended diet most suited to that person. A handful of such laboratories in USA are currently providing the service for genomic profiling and advice for nutritional supplements and it costs $1500 for getting a preventive health profile.


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