As Registered Dietitians who specialize in integrative and functional nutrition, we often recommend genetic testing for our patients. This type of nutrition intervention revolves around the growing field of nutritional genomics. If you find yourself confused about what foods and diet approaches are best for your unique body, then you will benefit from this form of testing.
What is Nutritional Genomics?
Nutritional genomics is the study of how genetic variations (inherited mutations called "single nucleotide polymorphisms" or SNPs) effect individual dietary response to foods, and the role of nutrients in gene expression. Gene expression is the tightly regulated process of our DNA providing instructions to our body to create complex proteins called enzymes, which are needed for nutrient utilization and healthy bodily function. It acts as both a volume control and on/off switch by increasing or decreasing the number of enzymes produced, and this is controlled by the foods we consume. Too much or too little of an enzyme can be very disruptive and lead to chronic diseases. However, with the help of targeted nutrients in foods, gene expression (enzyme production) can be increased or decreased, thus improving symptoms on a functional level instead of masking symptoms with medications that often have unwanted and long-term side effects.
The genes we include in our reports are clinically relevant, nutritionally actionable and validated by published research. They have a proven effect on human health that can be modified with nutrition and lifestyle changes. We have only included SNPs that have been shown in research to significantly interfere with health and metabolism, that have known disease associations, and that show clear enzymatic changes in how nutrients in foods are absorbed and utilized thus effecting bodily functions. Please note, these genes are not considered “rare variants of large effect”, or pathogenic disease markers. However, they have been shown to significantly contribute to decreased health, quality of life, and the development of chronic disease over time.
Our goal in providing this service is to consider your unique gene-nutrient interactions and design an appropriate nutrition therapy plan based on your specific genotype that optimizes your health, quality of life, and management of existing conditions, as well as reducing your risk of disease and need for medications.
What To Expect?
After we meet with you and review your health and nutritional history, we may recommend specific genetic testing. This will involve a blood or saliva test. When your results are completed by the lab, we will review the results at your next appointment and adjust your nutrition plan accordingly.
The most comprehensive tests available are salivary tests and are relatively inexpensive compared to out of pocket lab costs for blood tests not covered by insurance. Additionally, blood tests usually require insurance prior authorization and coverage is historically limited. Your dietitian will discuss all options with you to assist you in choosing your best route for testing.