Why Genetics Alone is Not Enough

September 2, 2019
Leanne Edermaniger

Genomics is a fast-growing area of medical science which is transforming the way the world of medicine not only researches disease but how it diagnoses and treats it, too. Since, the complete sequencing of the human genome in 2003, there are many personalised treatments influenced by an individual’s genetic makeup, waiting to be approved. The need for a personalised approach to medicine is huge, especially as a one-size-fits-all approach is becoming outdated. Another key area which is joining the genetics movement is nutrition and the birth of nutrigenomics has the potential to prevent and treat diet-related disease.

At present, the nutrition market is flooded with different dietary interventions, but although they may work for some, they won’t work for all. Why? Because we are all individual and our genetic makeup means our bodies may respond differently to certain diets and even exercise regimes. So, we must consider the interaction between our genes and the food we put into our body, and the effect this has on our health. Put simply, this is nutrigenomics.

Nutrigenomics studies the effects of specific nutrients on the expression of genes. In other words, the messages genes receive to make proteins or other molecules. The science analyses how your diet impacts your health both positively and negatively. It’s easy to forget however, that our health is not only governed by the molecular processes taking place within our bodies but by other factors, too. Even if your genetic profile shows you are susceptible to a certain disease or illness, whether it manifests is dependent upon the complex interplay between genetic, behavioural and environmental influences.

The combination of genomic science with the science of nutrition has progressed from only studying the effects of the diet on an individual’s genetic makeup, to incorporating the protective function of nutrition against damage to the genome. However, to be a successful, lifestyle and environmental factors must also be taken into consideration with specialist support made available to individual’s who opt to have their genetic profile analysed.  

Let’s look at obesity as an example. Obesity, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes are all current major public health burdens. Dietary factors such as increased energy, fat and carbohydrate intakes alongside sedentary lifestyles are one explanation for the rise in obesity across the world. In other words, there is an imbalance between energy intake (food) and energy expenditure (exercise). However, these are not the only causes of obesity. The disease is also influenced by many other factors including hormones, the environment, behaviour, metabolism and, of course, genetics.

An obese individual may choose to have their genetic profile analysed and study the effect their diet is having on their genome. Their genetic makeup may show they have genetic variants which make them more susceptible to obesity or weight gain. Although their genes show they are at a greater risk of becoming obese, their environment is also a determining factor.Therefore, obesity, and indeed, many other diseases are not caused by one factor alone. Instead, they can be considered multi factorial, in that a combination of genetic and environmental factors are to blame.

What are the environmental influences which contribute to obesity, particularly in genetically susceptible individuals? Dietary intake is one. Both the quantity and quality of the diet are important. In the western world, our diet is heavily influenced by our fast-paced lifestyles and many people opt for convenience over nutritional quality. Portion size also influences obesity, meals and individual serving sizes are increasing. Plus, there is so much more choice, in many fast food restaurants, it’s possible to order large, extra large and grand meal sizes, all of which add a huge daily calorific intake.

Diet can easily be addressed. With the help of genetic profiling and home DNA tests, DNA based diets can now be derived which focus on the individual's results and needs, adding a new personalised approach to nutrition. Yet, a DNA based diet cannot simply work alone.

Rightangled’s Fitness DNA Test is an innovative home DNA test with a unique difference. The test itself gives you a greater understanding of how your body metabolises specific nutrients as well as the vitamins and minerals it personally needs. The test gives you a nutrigenetic profile which can be used to help you adjust your food intake according to how your body absorbs and uses these nutrients. Plus, the test also studies the impact your genes have on your exercise response. The test provides both personalised dietary and lifestyle recommendations to achieve a more balanced and healthier standard of living.

Rightangled also offers its Wellness Pro Test, a combination of their Fitness DNA Test with their Heart DNA Test.The unique combination of the tests provides the consumer with a comprehensive understanding of their genetic make-up in accordance with their diet, heart health and fitness performance. Rightangled aims to revolutionise healthcare by providing individuals with insights into their health, based upon their genes, and in a bid to prevent rather than cure disease and illness.

And here’s the major difference between Rightangled’s tests and similar ones on the market, they’re tailored for you. From the information collected from the individual’s genetic profile, an eight-week tailored diet and exercise plan is built uniquely for the individual. Plus, the reports are reviewed by qualified specialists such as doctors, nutritionists and personal trainers. By considering the medical history as well as the lifestyle and environmental factors an individual is exposed to, Rightangled offers a unique, personalised service, setting them apart from other genetic profiling companies. In a systematic review by Stewart et al., (2018), it was found that behaviour change was most successfully implemented when direct-to-consumer genetic testing was used in conjunction with lifestyle counselling. A service Rightangled is already successfully offering.

Another innovative approach the company has taken is to build an integrated platform where specialists can offer support and guidance to individuals via secure and dedicated portals. Alongside the interplay between genetic and environmental factors and the influence, this has on disease susceptibility, having a support network is paramount if behavioural changes are to be achieved.

References

Doo, M and Kim, Y. (2015).Obesity: Interactions of Genome and Nutrients Intake. Prev. Nutr. Food Sci: 20(1), pp 1-7.  

Mead, M, N. (2007).Nutrigenomics: The Genome-Food Interface. Environ Health Perspect: 115(12), pp A582-A589.

Stewart, K, F, J et al. (2018). Behavioural Changes,Sharing Behaviour and Psychological Responses After Receiving Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Test Results: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.J Community Genet: 9(1), pp 1-18.