May 04, 2003
The Future Of Nutritional Genomics

Writing in the New York Times Bruce Grierson explores the potential use of individual genetic profiles to choose the ideal personalized diet.

A trip to the diet doc, circa 2013. You prick your finger, draw a little blood and send it, along with a $100 fee, to a consumer genomics lab in California. There, it's passed through a mass spectrometer, where its proteins are analyzed. It is cross-referenced with your DNA profile. A few days later, you get an e-mail message with your recommended diet for the next four weeks. It doesn't look too bad: lots of salmon, spinach, selenium supplements, bread with olive oil.

Once DNA sequencing costs fall far enough and more DNA sequence variations are tied to health risks and to interactions with dietary and other health habits personal dietary advisories will become possible to create. However, the most powerful use of personal genetic profiles will likely to develop therapies that reduce individual genetic risks and problems.

Suppose someone has a greater risk of getting heart disease on a high saturated fat diet. Well, people still want to eat fat. When the genetic variations that increase heart disease risk are all identified and the mechanisms by which they increase risk become better understood it is very likely that therapies will be developed to change the expression of the genes of high risk people. In the extreme one can imagine genetic therapies to fix the causes of genetic risks.

Gene therapy will even be utilized to make food consumption easier to do. For instance, one can easily imagine those with lactose intolerance getting a gene therapy via a swallowed pill to program intestinal cells to make more lactase enzyme to break down lactose.

By the time that nutritional genomics becomes possible it is likely that complete genetic variation mapping for each person will become possible. Therefore a person won't send a DNA sample off to be tested just for nutritional advice. Rather, someone will submit their genetic map to an advice service and the advice service will then respond with specific dietary and lifestyle recommendations. Also, the service will probably include a suggested list of preventative treatments including drugs to take regularly and preemptive gene therapies to undergo.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 May 04 03:58 PM  Biomedical


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