PDF download is not available for Arabic and Urdu languages at this time. Please use the browser print function instead.

Learn about the emerging field of nutrigenomics, which links nutrients in foods with a person's genetic make-up to produce the healthiest diet possible.

Key points

  • Nutrigenomics is the study of how nutrients affect genes.
  • Nutrigenomics is a new science still under study.
  • One day, nutrigenomics may change disease prevention and treatment.
  • Eating healthy foods and exercising will always be important to health.

What is nutrigenomics?

Nutrigenomics is the study of the link between nutrients and genes. The food we eat is made up of nutrients. Carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals are all nutrients. The body's basic building blocks are genes. Everyone has a different set of genes. A person's genes determine in part a person's risk for certain diseases.

The goal of nutrigenomics is to know how specific nutrients affect genes and how this affects a person's risk for disease. Dietitians and other health-care providers may be able to tailor a diet to a person's individual genetic needs. This may help prevent or slow the progression of chronic diseases.

Research in nutrigenomics is ongoing

We share genes with animals in the same species as well as other species. Scientists involved in nutrigenomics study how nutrients affect genes in animals. They are trying to find out how this affects human health and a person's risk for chronic disease.

Although the entire human genome has been mapped, the way genes interact with each other and affect the body is still not well known. At the moment, genetic tests can only show some specific risks. These tests are not always accurate.

In the future, however, complete and accurate genetic tests may become part of routine checkups. These tests can be combined with better knowledge on how nutrients interact with genes. Together, these advances could increase treatment or prevention options for chronic disease. For example, take a person who has a gene known to put them at risk for heart disease. Doctors can prescribe a specific nutrient to make that gene inactive. This would lower or even remove the risk.

Nutrigenomics may just be one more tool for health

Nutrigenomics is a growing science that has great potential. The hope is it will become another tool health-care professionals can use in the pursuit of health.

Healthful eating habits and exercise are still a key part of living a long and healthy life. It is important to remember that other factors play a large role in human health. These include:

  • where we work and live
  • our socio-economic status
  • whether we smoke, drink alcohol and abuse drugs
  • exposure to toxins and pollution
  • our stress levels
Last updated: May 20th 2010