The age of nutrition

Children in the future can be made on the basis of the genetic information of each individual and thus achieve individualized nutrition.

Although Hippocrates, the 4th century BC father of medicine, first proclaimed “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food,” current molecular biologists and geneticists do not include nutrients as a variable in studies. diseases. It is currently known that excessive consumption of certain nutrients is the cause of numerous diseases including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Previously, the nutrients contained in food were considered only as a source of energy and the lack of any of them could have consequences for the optimal growth of the individual. However, with the advancement of biochemical and physiological methods, the function that nutrients have in the body, their nutritional value and their role in metabolism began to be known. Between the 1950s and 1970s, knowledge began to emerge about the participation of some nutrients in various metabolic pathways, for example the function of vitamins as cofactors of enzymes involved in metabolic pathways. It was a major advance in the understanding of the role of nutrition in biology, which represented a very different concept from the one that originally considered nutrients as a source of energy only.

In recent years (80s), when molecular biology reached food laboratories, it was discovered that nutrients are able to strongly modify the expression of genes, and thus of proteins. Even the simplest food contains hundreds of chemical compounds, some of which are nutritious, others non-nutritive but bioactive, or both nutritious and bioactive.

Personalized feeding

All these chemical compounds in food can affect the activity of proteins, receptors and metabolic pathways. Constant activation of the metabolic pathway due to chronic consumption of certain foods or excessive consumption of certain foods can cause the development of certain diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases and even cancer.

Research into the effect of nutrients at the molecular level led to Molecular Nutrition, based on two observations:

Nutrients can modify the expression of several genes and depending on the genotype (variation in the nucleotide base in an individual’s DNA), the effect of nutrients can vary in each individual, leading to a different health condition for each of them. .

These two observations led to the development of nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics.

Nutrigenomics considers the effects of nutrients on the expression of multiple genes (genomics), proteins (proteomics) and metabolites (metabolomics). Nutrigenomics studies how certain nutrients can act on molecular targets (genes or transcription factors) and thus affect health. This new branch of nutrition can help design or improve bioactive foods or food supplements or modify diets to maintain an individual’s health in certain situations.


It is very interesting to know that nutrients can affect gene expression through different mechanisms. The first involves an indirect mechanism through which nutrients contained in food can produce changes in the ratio of hormones such as insulin and glucagon that then activate transcription factors such as SREBP-1. For example, the type of protein. Proteins of animal origin activate more SREBP-1 and therefore promote more lipogenesis and triglyceride accumulation in the liver.

Another mechanism involves the effect of nutrients on cell membrane composition. For example, some lipids such as Omega 3 fatty acids in the diet change the fluidity of the membrane and thus the distribution in the formation of eicosanoids.

The third mechanism involves the interaction of nutrients with transcription factors that enter the nucleus and bind to specific sites on DNA. For example, polyunsaturated fatty acids that bind to the transcription factor PPAR and thus increase their oxidation in the mitochondria, reducing the accumulation of lipids in the body.

A fourth mechanism involves the effect of a nutrient on redox balance that alters the activation state of transcription factors such as NF kappa B involved in inflammation.

A fifth mechanism involves methylation or acetylation of proteins that surround and bind to DNA.

The sixth mechanism involves regulation at the level of translation (a process involving protein synthesis from mRNA) by a nutrient. For example, the effect of iron on the regulation of ferritin and transferrin receptor translation.

The seventh mechanism involves covalent modifications of synthesized proteins. For example, vitamin K-mediated carboxylation of glutamic acid.


With the help of nutigenomics, it will be possible to learn the mechanisms of action of nutrients at the molecular level, and together with nutrigenetics, it will be possible to know how individuals react to nutrition based on their genetic information, and therefore it will be possible in the future to achieve individualized nutrition.

A personalized diet or a diet for groups of individuals with similar characteristics (genotype) would require a genetic test to know if they have a predisposition to develop the disease. With this information, the doctor, geneticist and nutritionist will be able to develop a personalized diet plan based on your genetic analysis and health condition. With this information, food companies will be able to develop new foods intended for groups of individuals with similar genotypes (individual susceptibility to the development of a particular disease). Finally, it is important to note that one of the challenges when introducing foods based on genotype will be to analyze whether these foods really help the individual in maintaining the appropriate health status.

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