Inspiring the food of tomorrow
Nutrigenomics is the scientific study of the genetic differences in human response to the bioactive compounds or nutrients in food. Dietitian Sarah-Jane Reilly outlines how research in this area is driving developments within the food industry,and considers how nutrigenomic foods might carve a path to consumers.
Nutrigenomics uses molecular tools such as proteomics, metabolomics and transcriptomics to identify how the components of a particular diet may affect the expression of genes in health and disease.1 It is often applied to human health through the concept of ‘personalised nutrition’ which provides individuals with targeted nutritional advice, products or services with the aim of improving or maintaining optimum health. This advice is typically based on the individual’s genetic, phenotypic and medical information.2 Commercial interest in nutrigenomics in recent years has led to the popularity of companies such as DNAFit, Habitat and EasyDNA among consumers. These companies offer personalised dietary advice based on the results of nutrigenetic home-based testing kits. Alongside the commercial developments and consumer interest in nutrigenomics, there has been an increased move towards the production of ‘functional foods’ within the food industry. These foods aim to deliver additional nutritional value to foods, with common examples including margarines with added plant sterols and stanol esters, and yoghurts containing probiotics.3,4 As more and more gene-diet interactions are identified everyday through candidate gene studies and genome-wide association studies, the question remains how personalised nutrigenomic foods can be developed and incorporated into the functional foods market. This article will explore some of the challenges encountered in the introduction of these foods and will identify current progress in the field of personalised nutrigenomic food development.
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