Why are genetics important for nutrition? Lessons from epigenetic research

Ann Nutr Metab. 2012;60 Suppl 3:38-43. doi: 10.1159/000337363. Epub 2012 May 15.


Marked advances were made over the last decade in deciphering the molecular mechanisms on how external, nutritional factors can impact on the regulation of genes and ultimately their function without modification of the genetic code. This field of nutrigenomic research is literally exploding. With the understanding of epigenetic control mechanisms, such as DNA methylation, histone acetylation, methylation or phosphorylation, as well as the posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression via non-coding microRNA, many different experimental and analytic approaches were possible to elucidate how varying nutritional support might impact on specific functions, with short- and potently long-term effects. This review highlights the major principles of epigenetic control mechanisms and their link to particular nutritional influences. Epidemiological data, such as the Dutch famine studies, suggest that targeted nutritional intervention might be causative for long-term effects on health, such as the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and metabolic syndrome in this cohort. However, to date most of the knowledge comes from experimental and animal data, which cannot be easily transferred to human situations. It is anticipated that within the next few years, major advances will be made to translate this knowledge of nutritional intervention on gene regulation and expression into health preventive programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research / trends
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Epigenomics / trends
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Health Promotion* / trends
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Nutrigenomics / trends
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Precision Medicine / trends
  • Preventive Medicine* / trends