Understanding the nutrigenomic definitions and concepts at the food-genome junction

OMICS. 2008 Dec;12(4):229-35. doi: 10.1089/omi.2008.0033.


The marked differences in individual response to dietary factors have led to major controversies in nutrition and puzzled nutrition scientists over the last century. The emerging field of nutrigenomics helps us to understand the basis for some of these differences and also promises us the ability to tailor diet based on individual genetic makeup. Great advances in Human Genome Project, documentation of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in candidate genes and their association with metabolic imbalances have gradually added new tests to the nutrigenomic panel. Studies based on ethnopharmacology and phytotherapy concepts showed that nutrients and botanicals can interact with the genome causing marked changes in gene expression. This has led to the commercial development of nutraceuticals and functional foods that can modify negative health effects of individual genetic profile bringing the field to the "food/genome" junction. Despite the promise of nutrigenomics to personalize diet, there is skepticism whether it can truly bring about meaningful modification of the risk factors connected to chronic diseases, due to the lack of large scale nutrition intervention studies. Several intervention studies currently underway in the United States and abroad (Israel, Spain, and France) will further help validate nutrigenomic concepts. France has already introduced a National Nutrition and Health Program to assess nutritional status and risk of major metabolic diseases. As the field(s) related to nutritional genomics advance in their scope, it is essential that: (a) strict guidelines be followed in the nomenclature and definition of the subdisciplines; and (b) the state/federal regulatory guidelines be updated for diagnostic laboratories, especially for those offering tests directly to the public (without a physician's request) to help protect the consumer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Supplements
  • Food*
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Diseases / diet therapy
  • Metabolic Diseases / genetics
  • Metabolic Diseases / prevention & control
  • Nutrigenomics / education
  • Nutrigenomics / trends*
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / genetics*
  • Preventive Medicine / education
  • Preventive Medicine / trends
  • Terminology as Topic*