Nutrigenomics


DNA sheds light on how you and the world can best work together!

In the last few years, we have seen huge advances in the field of genetics. (For example, you can learn about thousands of your genes for $250 through 23andme.com.) We’re rapidly discovering more and more about what individual genes do, but the more we learn, the more we understand genes are not the only players!

Nutrigenomics is the study of the effects of food on gene expression.

It’s important to understand that most genes require an environmental trigger to be turned on or off. So, even if someone has a “bad” gene that creates conditions that encourage disease, there’s no guarantee they will develop that disease. Lung cancer is a commonly-used example: some genes for lung cancer won’t be switch on without cigarette smoke or very bad pollution.

Similarly, some “good” and “regular old” genes require the right environment to be activated so they can work as intended. Nutrition is one of the most powerful triggers! (Our emotions are tied or at least close runner-up.)

For example, let’s say your body is programmed by your DNA to thrive on a high protein diet, but your diet is carb-heavy. This scenario is like putting gasoline in a diesel engine… if a  machine is built for one kind of fuel, anything else will make it sputter and provide suboptimal performance. I’m not saying you’re as simple as a Buick, but I think you get the idea.

A recent clinical trial shows that people who receive nutrition advice tailored to their genetic profile lost 76% more weight. See more info on the GenoVive Genetic Test that can give you a highly-individualized insight into what nutrition is best for you.

Epigenetics

DNA provides powerful potential, but only the Environment can turn genes on and off and make things happen. Epigenetics is the study of molecules that attach to DNA to affect their expression. The kicker is that even though these molecules are not official parts of the genetic code, they are inheritable!

  • Methyl groups attach to DNA to activate or repress genes.
  • Molecules can attach to histones, which are like spools around which DNA is wound like thread.
  • Transposons are fragments of DNA, which can jump from one section of a chromosome to another, ostensibly to rapidly reorganize genes in response to environmental stress. >>
  • A decision about which genes to switch on or off can change in as fast as thirty minutes. Stress and emotions are usually a contributing factor in this short timeframe.

Humans share over 90% of our genome with apes <insert joke about your uncle here>. But the huge difference comes in how those genes are managed and expressed.We have ~30,000 genes, but only 2% of the entire genome is made up of genes. The 98% remaining is what used to be called “Junk DNA”. It turns out this not-junk DNA provides instructions for how genes are directed and controlled… pretty outrageously important.

Genetics Primer

  • DNA_replication_split.svg

    DNA is a long molecule that is wrapped around histones, like thread around a spool. Each DNA molecule is stuffed into a chromosomes, like stuffing in a sock puppet. Chromosomes are stored in the nucleus of nearly every one of your 70 trillion cells. You get 23 chromosomes from your Mom and 23 from your Dad for a total of 46. The DNA in every cell is all exactly the same.

  • If all of the DNA molecules in a single human cell were placed end-to-end, they would be 6 feet long!!

  • DNA looks like a twisted ladder (double-helix). The ladder’s rungs are “zinc fingers” and its sides are lined with nucleotides that form “base pairs”. >>

    dna-gene-to-protein-molecularmachine

  • A gene is a distinct portion of DNA which contains an ordered sequence of nucleotides that encodes the production of a specific protein. Humans have about 25,000 genes.

  • In textbooks, both strands of DNA have the exact same nucleotides and therefore the same genes, like identical twins. But in real life, the strands of DNA are more like fraternal twins and not exactly the same. When a gene is different than “normal”, it’s called a haplotype or SNP (pronounced snip, and meaning single nucleotide polymorphism). When people talk about genetic flaws or mutations, they’re usually referring to SNPs. Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 11.01.26 PM

  •  Proteins are needed by absolutely everything! All cell components require proteins to be built or repaired (from liver cells to immune cells and hormones to building blocks for the body’s structural bits like bone, muscle and tendon).

  • When new proteins need to be created, the appropriate section of DNA is unwound from histones, then the double-helix twists open (while trumpets sound). After the appropriate genes are accessed and copied by RNA, the DNA winds twists closed and docks back onto its histones.

  • A genome is the entire set of genes stored on all the DNA in all the chromosomes.

  • Genotype is the internally coded, inheritable information that’s stored in the genetic code. It can’t be seen other than through special equipment. Phenotype is the outward physical manifestation of genetics. In other words, the observed results of genetics (such as eye color, foot size, ability to wiggle nose).