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Back to Symposium 2008

Nutrigenomics: Implications on Practice

Ahmed El-Sohemy, PhD

Canada Research Chair in Nutrigenomics, Associate Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto

Since nutrigenomics explores how nutrients and food bioactives interact with genes to affect health outcomes, this new branch of science may have important implications with respect to the aging process.

One of the major goals of research in this area is to provide a scientific basis for improving dietary recommendations to populations as well as providing personalized dietary advice to individuals. There is also an opportunity to apply the knowledge generated by nutrigenomics research to create functional foods that have value-added health benefits beyond meeting basic nutrition requirements.

Research findings in this area have enhanced our understanding of how sequence or structural variations in genes modify the physiological response to various dietary constituents. Genetic variations affecting absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination may help explain some of the inconsistencies among population-basedstudies relating diet and disease by providing a more accurate measure of exposure of target cells to specific bioactive compounds. As well, common genetic variations may also affect the foods we select by influencing sensory, reward and energy homeostatic mechanisms.

Nutrigenomics is enabling us to unravel the complex mixture of compounds in our diet to establish the role of biologically active compounds in optimizing human health. Identifying relevant diet-gene interactions will not only benefit individuals seeking personalized dietary advice, but will improve public health recommendations by providing sound scientific evidence linking diet and health.

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