For many people nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition are one and the same, but a line needs to be drawn between them. Nutrigenomics is defined as how food and ingested nutrients influence the genome. On the other hand, nutrigenetics is defined as how a person's genetic make-up affects a response to diet.
In the final part of our series on nutrigenomics, NutraIngredients spoke with Prof Peter Weber, corporate scientist for DSM Nutritional Products, who explained that nutrigenomics is a term that relates to a variety of techniques, including transcriptomics, proteomics, and metabonomics.
These ‘omics’ are complimentary: Changes to messenger RNA (transcriptomics) and the corresponding proteins (proteomics) control the transport of certain nutrients and metabolites (metabonomics) in the biochemical pathway.
“How can we use this new technology to better understand what our products are doing?” asked Prof Weber.
Biomarkers and health claims
“People think [nutrigenomics] is personalized nutrition, but let’s put that aside for the moment,” said Prof Weber. “I think nutrigenomics is very important for exploring the mechanisms of our products.”
Nutrigenomics could also provide a new set of biomarkers with relevance to nutrition. “Currently we use many biomarkers derived from chronic disease, but nutrition is about keeping people healthy as long as possible,” he said. “This is different from the pharma perspective, and these pharma-based biomarkers are not so useful for nutrition.”
Dr Weber added that, as an emerging technique there are still a number of things to be established. “It will take time to get this kind of data accepted,” he said.
Such data, when accepted, could have implications for health claims, he said. “Only thinking about randomized clinical trials doesn’t do justice to how nutrition works,” said Dr Weber. “You need to consider the totality of the evidence.”
DSM & nutrigenomics
DSM’s interest in nutrigenomics began five to six years ago, said Prof Weber, and the company continues to invest in studies and collaborations in this area. Several human studies are on-going he said.
By applying the ‘omics’ techniques to gain a “critical understanding of the mechanisms of action” of vitamins and other ingredients, Prof Weber said it would give DSM a “competitive advantage” and allow them to “differentiate” their products.
Dr Weber explained that vitamins are co-factors for enzymes, and enzymes are proteins and therefore susceptible to genetic differences. “The obvious example is folate polymorphisms,” he explained. “There is also the conversion of beta-carotene to retinol. Different people have different rates of conversion.”
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