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Are you one of the lucky people who can devour the breadbasket and not put on any weight? Or, do you bloat just by looking at crisps? Have you ever wondered why some people can drink espresso after supper and sleep with no problem, while others stay awake when they have just one latte past noon?
Research is proving that small differences in our genes can affect how we process food and how food impacts our health.
This field of research is known as Nutrigenomics. Our genes dictate things like what we can and can’t digest, our predisposition to high cholesterol, our ability to absorb certain nutrients, how quickly we metabolize caffeine, our tendency to gain weight and many other things.
We can’t change our DNA and our genetic susceptibility to disease. But, by understanding how our DNA can alter the effects that nutrient intake has on our body, we can incorporate dietary modifications specific to our personal genetic makeup and help prevent illness from manifesting. This article should help you to understand the right food for your dna.
To illustrate this, let’s talk about CYP1A2 (Cytochrome P450 1A2). This enzyme is associated with about 95% of the caffeine metabolism in our body. Like all genes in the body, it is comprised of 2 different alleles, or versions. In this case, A and C. We inherit one allele from each parent. This means that the possible variations are AA, CC or AC. People with the AA genotype develop enzymes that allow for fast metabolism of caffeine. People with the CC genotype are slow metabolizers. People with the AC genotype are somewhere in between. Read more about how caffeine impacts your organs here.
Now, why would it be important to know something like this?
A study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association involving more than 4000 people. In this study, they showed an association between heart attacks and caffeine intake. But, more specifically, they stated that the risk of having a heart attack from too much caffeine is only increased in the group with the slow metabolizer genotype. In this group of people, therefore, it would be prudent to limit their caffeine intake to 200mg per day or less. This is just one example of a dietary modification a person could easily make thanks to the nutrigenetics knowledge they are now armed with.
There's even a gene associated with salt-sensitive hypertension
Another example we can look at is the ACE, or angiotensin-converting enzyme, gene. With ACE, you can have an insertion (I) or deletion (D) allele. So, the variations would be II, DD and ID.
This particular gene codes for an enzyme that plays a role in salt-sensitive hypertension. People with II genotypes and consume a lot of salt daily are more likely to develop high blood pressure than those people with the DD genotype consuming the same amount. The ACE gene has also been shown to affect our response to carbohydrates. People with the DD genotype have lower insulin sensitivity and therefore a higher tendency to develop type 2 diabetes. This group of people would particularly benefit from a low glycemic index diet.
We all know that motivation for any new lifestyle modification, like eating a healthier diet, is very fragile. This is why early success is absolutely crucial.
Researchers at Stanford University have shown that people who followed a genetic-based diet lost 2 times more weight over a 12-month period. And, as shown above, weight loss is not the only benefit. With nutrigenomics, you can reduce the amount of time spent finding a nutrition plan that is compatible to you.
CYP1A2 and ACE are just a couple of the genes tested in the nutrigenomics kit that comes with my The Main Course Program. This comprehensive program provides invaluable knowledge regarding your own genetic makeup and combines it with the support of a health coach to maximize the effectiveness of behavioral change. Nutrigenomics is rapidly advancing and hopefully healthcare in the future will be based on individual risk instead of simply responding to problematic symptoms as they arise.
This guest post is written by Ireland-based Dr. Denise Karlyn Hee, a medical doctor practicing nutrigenomic medicine and certified integrative nutrition health coach. If you’d like to find out more about this topic, feel free to message her via her RingMD profile (profile here).
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