READER Ann sent me a slew of questions:
“Could race, hair colour, eye colour, ancestry help you choose the best diet? What about your gender? If you do have DNA information, how much would you be able to learn about your optimal nutrition?
“And I wonder if food preferences are DNA-related, in some way. I try to have a healthy diet, but if I learned that I’d be better off with peanut butter sandwiches and not much else, day in, day out, that would sound great to me. Thanks.”
Well, pretty much everything about you – including your susceptibility to some diseases – is determined by what you inherited from your parents.
Even your preference for peanut butter sandwiches, and mine for New Mexican food, are at least partially influenced by our genetics, researchers say.
And yes, because males and females have differing body types and functions, our nutritional needs do vary.
Men generally require more protein and women of childbearing age need more iron, for example.
There are two areas of study on this topic.
One is called nutrigenomics, which looks at how diet affects the “expression” of our individual genetic code.
For example, my dad developed Type 2 diabetes late in his life.
Since we know the condition is linked to family history, there’s a good chance I inherited a tendency for diabetes as well.
What is fascinating, say scientists, is my lifestyle, including how I eat, can influence if that gene may turn on to diabetes or stay off. (So far, it’s off.)
On the flip side is an emerging field of research called nutrigenetics, which delves into how one’s individual genetic code affects how we respond to certain components in food.
These discoveries have spawned personalised nutrition programmes based on DNA results.
And while there are companies that will map your nutritional needs based on your genetics, please note that this area of nutrition is still in its infancy and not standardised by any means.
That said, I was offered to submit my saliva for evaluation by Genopalate, one such company with a great resume of nutrition professionals and researchers.
And I must say I was intrigued with the results.
Among other details, my report found that my “genotype” is best suited to a diet high in carbohydrate foods and a moderate intake of dietary fibre.
I also need a high normal amount of zinc, vitamin D and omega-3 fats in my diet.
And apparently my body breaks down caffeine fast but alcohol slow – a reminder that “genetics loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.” – By Barbara Intermill/ Tribune News Service
The writer, Barbara Intermill, is a registered dietitian in the United States.