Time to Start Eating and Living for Our Genes

Biochemical Individuality: Truly personalised Healthcare

Gene Impact and information The government public health guidelines provide dietary guidelines for the general population through their Eatwell Plate 2016. This guidance makes one crucial assumption, that everyone is the same and consequently, so are their nutritional needs – but just look around, clearly, we are all different.

The concept of ‘Biochemical Individuality’ was first defined by Dr. Roger J. Williams in his book of the same name, published in 1956. Dr. Williams was the first to recognize all humans differ biochemically, his rather strange hypothesis at the time “Practically every human being is a deviate in some aspects1

In other words, there is no such thing as the average person.

Every one of us is genetically and biologically different.

Biochemical individuality is the concept that the nutritional and chemical make-up of each person is unique and that dietary and other needs vary from person to person. People have unique biochemical profiles based upon their unique genetic structure, nutrition, microbiome (gut microbes) and environment and this is the basis for personalised healthcare.

Dr William’s work argues that bad genes do not necessarily cause disease by themselves, and nutrition and environment can alter the outcome.

Functional medicine and nutritional therapy are founded on Dr William’s concepts. At Nutritional Immunology, we consider each client as the unique individual they are. Although two people may be diagnosed with the same disease and may also be on the same medication regime, yet their genetics, lives and preferences may be completely different.

Nutritional Immunology considers each individual to be unique and recommends personalised nutrition and lifestyle programmes rather than the standard ‘one size fits all’ approach.

This is the reason that the consultation process takes longer than the usual 8minutes allotted when you visit your GP. The initial consultation lasts 90minutes and will allow you, as the unique individual you are, to tell your own story.

Epigenetics and nutrigenomics

Unfortunately, a misconception has developed in many peoples’ understanding of disease, principally that a person’s genes predestine the development of illness and therefore very little can be done to change that destiny.

The study of epigenetics and nutrigenomics is highlighting almost the complete opposite Indeed, if we live and eat according to our genetic makeup, most chronic illness may be avoided and a long and healthy life is quite possible.

Researchers are learning that food not only provides energy (in the form of calories) and nutrients from vitamins, minerals and plants but also provides information; one could almost say, “food speaks to our genes2.

The objective of nutrigenomic-based healthcare is to apply food and nutrients that speak health and longevity.

Keeping it as simple as possible - epigenetics is the study of how the environment interacts with our genes and nutrigenomics is our food-gene interaction. Nutrigenomics, the study of the influence of nutrients on gene expression in acute and chronic illness, may just provide the knowledge and be the incentive you have been looking for to change your approach to managing your health and wellbeing.

The development of genetic testing means there is now the ability to understand what is hardcoded (genes and biochemical pathways) and what can be managed i.e. the food you eat and the environment in which you live. In other words, your health destiny can be in your hands – because as we know, knowledge is power.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) 3:

  • Virtually all human diseases result from the interaction of genetic susceptibility and modifiable environmental factors

  • Variations in genetic makeup are associated with almost all disease

  • Genetic variations do not cause disease but rather influence a person’s susceptibility to environmental factors

  • Genetic information can be used to target interventions

Nutrigenomics provides the ultimate step in biochemical individuality and personalised interventions. No two individuals are the same - therefore each intervention is unique. Personalised interventions are also more effective because once you understand your genetic makeup; you are more likely to stick to your personalised dietary and lifestyle changes.

Examples of genetic tests available:

All genes tested meet the following stringent criteria for utility in genetic tests:

  • Have proven biological function

  • Have a plausible biological role in the development of disease

  • Have evidence from clinical studies

The results provide individual recommendations that include:

  • Gene-based healthy eating plan

  • Dietary goals for relevant nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals

  • Requirements for nutritional supplementation (when needed)

DNA Diet

DNA Diet tests for thirteen genes that influence metabolism and exercise. The genes comprising the DNA Diet test have associations with body weight and body mass index. You are provided with a personalised report including recommendations for diet and exercise programmes.

Genes involved in regulation of energy expenditure, appetite and fat metabolism all play an important role in weight regulation. In fact, 40% to 80% of the variance in body weight is due to genetic factors. This helps to explain why not everyone becomes obese even though people may be exposed to similar environments. Genetics thus determines an individual’s susceptibility to obesity when exposed to an unfavourable environment. It also explores the way a person responds to diet and exercise.

DNA Health
DNA Health optimises health and wellness through gene-based personalised nutrition. It tests twenty-three genes involved in seven key biological processes.

DNA Oestrogen
The DNA Oestrogen metabolism and detoxification test includes ten genes involved in oestrogen biosynthesis, oestrogen metabolism, and detoxification.

The importance of both oestrogen and progesterone in breast cancer development is well established. However, considerable inter-individual variability has been observed in the metabolism of carcinogens (cancer causing agents), metabolism of steroid hormones, and phase I and phase II detoxification.

Variations in genes involved in these biological processes help identify a sub-population of women with higher lifetime exposure to oestrogens, oestrogen metabolites and other carcinogens.

Examples of genetic markers

Lipid Metabolism – Nutrition, especially the metabolism of dietary fat, is important in preventing cardiovascular disease. By identifying the way the fat in your diet interacts with your genes, you can change your dietary intake to achieve optimum heart health.

Vitamin B metabolism – B vitamins, especially folate, play an essential role in energy metabolism, building and repairing DNA and in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neural tube defects. Variations in your genes can alter how efficiently your body uses these vitamins, potentially increasing your daily requirements.

Detoxification - identifies gene-variations affecting enzyme functions in phase I and phase II detoxification.

Oxidative stress - Antioxidants are the body’s defence against free radicals. Free radicals are a normal by-product of the body’s energy processes. However, these molecules can damage DNA and proteins in the body and have been linked to various chronic diseases. Anti-oxidants are found naturally in the body in the form of enzymes, but can also be consumed in a wide variety of foods.

Bone health – Our bodies break down and rebuild bone constantly. Our genes, diet and lifestyle (including exercise, stress, smoking, and alcohol consumption) are all important factors in these processes. By identifying how your genes affect your body’s calcium and Vitamin D metabolism, you can change your diet and lifestyle to help keep your bones strong.

Inflammation – Genes have control over the inflammation process. Sometimes a genetic variation causes a gene to stay switched on for longer than required. Low-grade inflammation over a long period has been linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Certain nutrients can help “switch off” these genes.

Insulin sensitivity - Under normal conditions, food is absorbed into the bloodstream in the form of sugars such as glucose. The hormone insulin is then released to enable glucose to move from the bloodstream into the cells to be stored or used for energy. Where insulin resistance is concerned, the body’s cells do not respond as effectively to insulin. Insulin resistance may play an important role in many health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

How We Work

Scientific References:
1. Williams, R. J. Biochemical individuality; the basis for the genetotrophic concept. (1956).
2. Kussmann, M. & Van Bladeren, P. J. The extended nutrigenomics - understanding the interplay between the genomes of food, gut microbes, and human host. Front. Genet. 2, 1–13 (2011).
3. Control, C. for D. Gene-Environment Interaction Fact Sheet. (2000).