Did you know that nutrition plays a role in your genes being expressed? ‘Nutrigenomics’ has been defined as the mutual interaction between nutrients and genes and how they influence our health.
It sounds simple but the nutrient-gene connection is quite complicated. Our DNA is a carrier of genetic information passed down from parent to child. DNA is made up of four nucleotides A, T, C, and G. Our DNA instructs all the cellular processes for life.
Genetic variations can occur when there is a change in DNA sequencing for example in sickle cell anemia (1). These genetic variations don’t cause disease on their own but convey a tendency towards disease. For example, CYP1A2 is a genetic variation that is linked to cardiovascular disease.
This genetic variation leads to slow caffeine metabolism. High caffeine intake, can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Caffeine is an environmental factor. If caffeine is reduced, then it may be possible to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (1).
Research shows that nutrient deficiencies have an effect on our DNA and our health.
A deficiency in folic acid, vitamins B3, B6, and B12 is linked to neurological dysfunction. Vitamin C deficiency oxidizes DNA and can cause cancer. Iron and zinc deficiency breaks down DNA and is linked to brain and immune dysfunction and cancer (2).
Epigenetics demonstrates how experiences and environmental influences also affect our gene expression.
During development, our DNA accumulates chemical markers that determine how much of our genes are expressed. The different experiences children have re-arrange those chemical marks. This explains why genetically identical twins can exhibit different behaviors, skills, health, and achievement.
We need to avoid nutrient deficiencies, environmental toxins, stimulants, and stress to reduce gene variations from expression. Genetic testing can also help you identify which genetic variations you have and how to use nutrition and the right environment to reduce your risk of disease.
1. Manionon Maggs (2019) Introduction to genetic testing. DNA Life Academy.
2. Pryce (2015) Nutrigenomics: How food affects our genes.Hawthorn University.