With the progress of science, it became increasingly clear that people are different, so it is not surprising that we will react differently individually even to food. Genes play a major role in this. The interaction of lifestyle, diet and genes is increasingly being focused on, given that poor nutrition is one of the leading causes of chronic diseases today.

What is nutrigenomics?

Nutrigenomics is a science that began to develop in the 1990s, and it studies the interaction of genes and nutrition, i.e. how food affects transcription and translation processes and proteomic and metabolic changes. The effect on transcription is such that substances from food can activate or inhibit “wrong” genes and thus cause disease, as well as promote protective genes that contribute to health. The molecular methods used are based on the analysis of mRNA (transcriptomics), proteina (proteomics), genome (genomics) and metabolites (metabolomics).

Diet can be adapted both to the individual patient and to the wider population in such a way as to introduce or remove foods that increase the benefit or reduce unwanted effects. As part of nutrigenomics, scientific fields such as nutritional engineering, nutritional genetics and epigenetics are also represented. Nutrigenetics, the opposite of nutrigenomics, studies how gene variations affect our response to food, disease predispositions and need for food.

Nutrigenomic tests

These are non-invasive tests that an individual can perform from the comfort of their own home by taking a swab of the inside of the mouth and sending it to a laboratory for DNA analysis. The results come already after a few weeks, and up to 70 genes are analyzed. The advantage is that our genome does not change, so there is no need to do testing multiple times throughout our lives. After the genes are sequenced, the results are compared with those in databases that provide clinical information about SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms). These are variations found in the sequence where one nucleotide has been changed. After the tests, it is important to find the best diet plan in consultation with a nutritionist and monitor its success.

Potential problems

Although nutrigenomics, at first glance, seems to be a great solution for changes in the diet of individuals or larger groups of people, it still encounters some obstacles. More nutritionists and other health professionals should be trained in order to provide patients with the most adequate approach. It should also be noted that patients can be poorly informed and not assess the quality of laboratory tests. Some studies have shown that patients who decided to do nutrigenomic testing did not see significant health improvements after following the diet plan or did not have enough motivation to continue with the program.

Counseling procedures should be improved, and attention should be paid to unreliable information that can be found on websites that are often unclear. Furthermore, the interactions between food and genes are quite complex, so there is often a lack of reference data in the databases. Interindividual differences, high testing costs, and ethnic and population variability are also potential problems.

What will happen in the future?

According to the available data, it could be concluded that nutrigenomics will become part of our everyday life. However, first we need to work on additional training for physicians and nutritionists, educate the public about the good and bad sides that nutrigenomics offers, and improve testing methods. Health is almost always a priority for people, and it is personalized nutrition that should optimize the health of each individual and reduce the risk of contracting various diseases, so there is certainly room for improvement.

Translated by: Asja Fajtović



1. Bašić et al. What is nutrigenomics, 2011, Croatian Journal of Food Technology, Biotechnology and Nutrition, Vol. 6.

2. Ceriani et al. Ethics of the clinical practice of nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics. Clinical Nutrition Open Science, 2023, 49, 56-68.

3. How Nutrigenomics May Impact the Way You Eat, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/ , accessed 11.12.2023.

4. Nutrigenomics: A Guide to Personalized Nutrition, https://srxhealth.ca/ , accessed 11.12.2023.

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