Information - Concepts In Nutrigenomics - Environment, Health, And Disease

Epidemiology - A Basis of Nutrigenomics

Although the primary focus of nutritional genomics is nutrient-gene interactions, environmental factors have long been known to contribute to the development of chronic diseases. Discriminating between various environmental factors and nutrient-gene interactions is the challenge facing the epidemiologist, biostatistician and bioinformaticist.  Examples of environmental factors include high-risk behaviors like smoking and substance abuse, exposure to toxins, socio-economic status, sleep time and continuity, stress, altitude changes, and physical activity.

Epidemiological studies have been helpful in identifying environmental factors associated with incidence or severity of certain diseases.  However, these are statistical associations and as such, do not indicated the exact cause of the disease.  Indeed, as the number of environmental variables increase, there is a corresponding need for larger population sizes in order to discriminate between statistically significant and insignificant factors. Meta-analyses may be helpful in this regard if studies record similar data elements and use similar environmental survey instruments for their populations.  Alternatively, well-designed laboratory animal studies and comparative genomics will be helpful in confirming and extending associations between diet and disease.

Other Environmental Factors - Cooking and Phytonutrients

Many of the environmental factors identified by epidemiological studies are being studied at the molecular level, usually in model systems.  Examples of include the hetorocyclic amines produced during cooking of red meat, many of which are carcinogenic and plant chemicals (phytonutrients) such as genistein and tea catechins (such as EGCG) that alter signal transduction and gene regulation processes.  Plant-derived peptides have also been shown to alter regulation of genes and lunasin is a prime example.  The complexity of nutrients and bioactives in foods makes the study of nutrient-gene interactions complex, but not intractable.

Further reading

Barnes, S, Allison, DB, Page, GP, Carpenter, M, Gadbury, GL, Meleth, S, Horn-Ross, P, Kim, H, Lamartinere, CA, Grubbs, CJ.  2006. Genistein and PolyPhenols in the Study of Cancer Prevention:  Chemistry, Biology, Statistics, and Experimental Design.  In Nutritional Genomics: Discovering the Path to Personalized Nutrition.  Kaput, J and Rodriguz, R (eds). Wiley and Sons, Inc. NY. 2006. pp 55-82.

Guo, S and Sonenshein, G.  2006.  Green Tea Polyphenols and Cancer Prevention. In Nutritional Genomics: Discovering the Path to Personalized Nutrition.  Kaput, J and Rodriguz, R (eds). Wiley and Sons, Inc. NY. 2006. pp 175-206.

Malfatti, MA and Felton, JS.  2006. Susceptibility to Exposure to Heterocyclic Amines from Cooked Food:  Role of UDP-glucronosyltransferases. In Nutritional Genomics: Discovering the Path to Personalized Nutrition.  Kaput, J and Rodriguz, R (eds). Wiley and Sons, Inc. NY. 2006. pp 55-82.

Ordovas, JM, and Corella, D.  2006.  Gene-Environment Interactions: Defining the playfield. In Nutritional Genomics: Discovering the Path to Personalized Nutrition.  Kaput, J and Rodriguz, R (eds). Wiley and Sons, Inc. NY. 2006. pp 55-82.

Ordovas, JM and Corella, D.  2004. Nutritional GenomicsAnn Rev Gen. Hum. Genet 5, 71 - 118. PMID: 15485344

 Willet, WC. 2006. The pursuit of optimal diets: a progress report.  In Nutritional Genomics: Discovering the Path to Personalized Nutrition.  Kaput, J and Rodriguz, R (eds). Wiley and Sons, Inc. NY. 2006. pp. 37-54.