Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Genetic Code Leads to Individual Diet Program

Genetic information could lead to individualized diet programs

In the near future, your annual checkup will include the usual tests along with an analysis of your DNA. Each of us inherits certain traits, such as eye color or height, from our parents. We know the tendency for developing chronic illness is also inherited from our parents and grandparents.

Our DNA is like a secret code that carries all the information that makes us who we are. For example, if your parents, grandparents or siblings have diabetes, then your chance of developing diabetes is very good.

But can we change the way the story ends? Can we do something to prevent the heart disease that runs in the family genetics? Promising new research regarding diet and lifestyle suggests that is possible.

The study participants' genes were mapped out by researchers. In the first phase of the study, they followed a very high-fat diet and their genes were studied for any changes. In the second phase, the diet was changed to a low-fat diet for several weeks.

Imagine that genes are similar to a light switch that can be turned on or turned off. The high-fat diet turned on some of the genes responsible for heart disease, but during the low-fat diet phase the genes were turned off. Scientists are hoping to use our unique genetic information to pinpoint our best diet and exercise prescription.

Some clients with high blood pressure see dramatic improvement in control if they reduce the amount of sodium in their diet. Broccoli may help prevent colon cancer for someone with a certain gene but may not benefit someone else in the same way. The standard low cholesterol diet works for some people, but isn't as effective for others.

For dietitians, the research is exciting. We will be able to give clients individualized diets that match their genetics. There won't be a one-size-fits-all diet for those with high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Different types of exercise routines may be required for successful weight loss.

I can imagine clients would be less frustrated and more willing to make changes if they were more likely to see positive results.