Can DNA testing better define healthy and unhealthy food?
The field of study that can lead to smart diets based on DNA testing, and the unique DNA in each of us, is rapidly gaining momentum. Study’s have shown that we can be much smarter about the food we eat based on how our bodies process and metabolize food. That said, the facts are in front of every day, but we still tend to eat more for the satisfaction in our mind, and our taste buds, than we do for the health and well being of our total body.
One study of note points to the correlation of diet and genetics. The Inuit’s of Greenland, those most native to the country, were recently studied relative to the fish oil they consume in their diet, and the potential health benefits derived from their high fat consumption. They were compared to European and Chinese populations. It was found that even though the Inuit’s live in one of the most extreme environments on the planet, they have a lower risk of heart disease than many other people.
Why? It’s believed there is a connection between the Inuit’s DNA and protective effects from their high omega-3 diet. There are skeptics, who say all can benefit from the omega-3’s, regardless of their DNA profile. In the article “Is fish oil good for you? Depends on your DNA,” Elizabeth Pennisi explored the research
of the Inuits by Rasmus Nielsen of the University of California, Berkeley. She also obtained comments from various geneticists.
One excerpt: “The results imply that people lacking Inuit DNA may not be getting the same protective effects from this substance, Nielsen says. More work clarifying the connection between high omega-3 and the Inuits’ heart health is needed, but this new work is a good start, adds geneticist Joshua Akey of the University of Washington, Seattle: “You can count on your fingers where we have a pretty good idea of what the agent of change was,” he says. In this case, the connection to diet seems clear.
Pennisi concludes that geneticists “envision the day when diets will be determined not by the latest fads and research findings, but through personalized genetic profiles. “We realize now that different human populations have adapted to different diets, so what’s healthy for one person might not be healthy for other people,” Nielsen says. “We need to have personalized diet choices based on genetics.”
Which still leaves us with the question of whether we as a culture will embrace any new findings that conclusively tell us what the right things are to put in our bodies. We know what not to eat, but it doesn’t stop us from our daily processed fast foods–especially here in America. It will be nice to know how our DNA can tell us what to eat, but are we ready to listen?