The genetic revolution: change and challenge for the dietetics profession

J Am Diet Assoc. 1999 Nov;99(11):1412-20. doi: 10.1016/S0002-8223(99)00341-7.


Advances in genetics are occurring at a pace that challenges our ability to understand and respond to the implications. Soon we will be able to define more precisely the molecular mechanisms underlying human health and disease; subdivide diseases and conditions (e.g., obesity) that are clinically indistinguishable into more distinct entities, thereby improving our ability to choose rational preventive and treatment measures; identify genotypic markers that predict metabolic responses to dietary interventions; stratify the population into groups at higher or lower risk for chronic diseases such as cancer, thus allowing dietary intervention to be appropriately targeted; and develop dietary recommendations that take into account genetically determined taste preferences. Dietetics leaders, teachers, practitioners, and researchers must act now to ensure that dietetics professionals are prepared for practice in this new era. In this article we introduce the Human Genome Project, review the fundamentals of molecular genetics, discuss genetics and disease risk, and define and give examples of diet-gene interactions. We also discuss issues relevant to dietary counseling of healthy people with genetic susceptibility to chronic disease. To foster the growth of knowledge regarding this new biology among dietitians, The American Dietetic Association should take the following steps: require course work on diet-gene interactions and include human genetics as a topic area on dietetic registration examinations, form a practice group on this topic, develop an Internet-based communication and information hub for dietetics professionals, sponsor a session on human genetics at annual meetings, begin a dialogue regarding a new practice specialty in diet and genetic counseling, and encourage a health care system in which personal counseling on diet-gene interactions is valued and reimbursed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet*
  • Dietetics / trends*
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1 / genetics
  • Genetic Counseling*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genetics / trends*
  • Human Genome Project
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Phenylketonurias / diet therapy
  • Risk Factors
  • Taste / genetics


  • Lipoproteins