Eat Gene's

Listen to Your Genes, Improve Your Diet?

The proposition that better nutritional advice might come from analyzing your genes has been floating around for a few years. And now a new study in PLOS ONE finds that “disclosing genetic information for personalized nutrition results in greater changes in intake for some dietary components compared to general population-based dietary advice.”

Does this mean it’s time to jump on board the Nutrigenomix® bandwagon? Maybe not.

Before this study prompts you to invest in their concept, take a look at what the study actually proved. It was a well-designed, randomized controlled study — there’s nothing to quibble with there. And we’re not going to quibble with the commercial interests of Nutrigenomix®. But the study did not test the question of whether genetic testing yields better dietary recommendations. What it did test was whether people follow recommendations any better when they are dispensed with genetic test results.

The investigators tested the effect on advice about sodium, vitamin C, caffeine, and added sugars. They saw no difference attributable to dispensing genetic test results with regard to vitamin C, caffeine, or added sugars. But they did see a difference with sodium. People who got genetic test results that indicated a high sensitivity to sodium achieved twice as much reduction in their sodium intake as people who were not given genetic test results.

So the research proved that genetic test results — only in the case of sodium — give consumers what marketers call “a reason to believe” and follow the dietary advice they were given. It did not prove that genetic testing provides better advice per se.

What we have here is really marketing research. It says that genetic test results provide a bit of sizzle that gets people to buy into advice to cut sodium more than they would otherwise. Does this mean that it’s worth a few hundred dollars to get genetic test results along with your dietary advice? We don’t think so.

We’re still inclined to agree with Steven Novella’s assessment in 2013. Nutrigenomics represents a promising clinical tool that’s not yet ready for prime time.

Click here to read the study, here to read more in Food Navigator USA, and here to read a more critical view from CBC News.

Eat Gene’s Tasty Burger, photograph © Tom Baddley / flickr

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One Response to “Listen to Your Genes, Improve Your Diet?”

  1. November 25, 2014 at 9:36 am, Mike Sireci said:

    Really great. I will try following your tips.thanks