Tailor your diet and your lifestyle to fit your genes. This is the advice from South African dietetic guru Yael Joffe about the latest health care revolution to sweep the country: nutrigenomics.
Addressing delegates at the Nutrition Congress in Port Elizabeth this week, she said: “Your genes are your treasure map to excellent health! Don’t view them as a hand of cards that has already been dealt. By knowing your genetic profile and following the diet that is right for you, you can keep yourself healthy into your golden years.”
Nutrigenomics – short for nutritional genomics – is an emerging scientific discipline that studies the relationship between diet, lifestyle and genes. This information can be used to create a personalised and preventative nutrition plan.
Informs personalised health decisions
Testing your genes gives valuable information as to how your body responds to different dietary and environmental influences, allowing you to make personal, well-informed decisions to maximise your health and well-being.
“Each of us has a unique body chemistry determined by our genes that is our blueprint for everything, from our hair colour to our susceptibility to disease,” said Joffe. “Genes also determine the way our body responds to food and physical activity. That’s why in the long run, our diet and lifestyle must be tailored to our genes.”
She said there are genes that alter your body’s response to dietary fat. While for some, high cholesterol foods raise cholesterol levels and decreasing fat in your diet decreases cholesterol levels, for others a regular breakfast of bacon and eggs will have no effect at all.
“An individual's salt sensitivity is also determined by their genes,” she said. “Dieticians have long known that some people with high blood pressure who eat a low sodium diet, see no reduction in their blood pressure, while others do.”
Who will benefit from red wine?
The disappointing news is that genes also tell us who will benefit most from a glass of red wine. It has become generally accepted that red wine affects our ‘good’ cholesterol, but this is not true for everyone. Certain genes can tell us who will benefit most and who would be better off avoiding that extra glass.
Yael Joffe is one of the pioneers in the field of nutrigenomics in South Africa. She has already presented lectures to more than 400 dieticians in the country. She also developed and supervises the nutrigenomics module incorporated into the Masters in Nutrition Degree at the University of Stellenbosch – a world first.
“Individuals often inherit genes that may put them at higher risk of negative health consequences," said Joffe. “Since our genetic makeup is fixed at birth, people are able to alter their diet and lifestyle to significantly reduce the risk of developing various common health conditions, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.”
Still a new discipline
She stressed that nutrigenomics is a new assessment tool available to the medical profession, but one that should be used alongside all the assessment tools we currently use. We are at the beginning of the nutrigenomic journey, there is much we have to learn, and many, many genes we know nothing about.
Genecare, a company based in Cape Town that offers nutrigenetic tests, has a network of health professionals who are trained in nutrigenomics. Contact them for a dietician who works in your area. – (Nutrition Society of SA and the Association of Dietitics of South Africa)
Source: The Nutrition Society of SA and the Association of Dietitics of South Africa