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Knowing your genes: does this impact behaviour change?

  • Clare B. O'Donovan (a1), Marianne C. Walsh (a1), Michael J. Gibney (a1), Lorraine Brennan (a1) (a2) and Eileen R. Gibney (a1)...

It is postulated that knowledge of genotype may be more powerful than other types of personalised information in terms of motivating behaviour change. However, there is also a danger that disclosure of genetic risk may promote a fatalistic attitude and demotivate individuals. The original concept of personalised nutrition (PN) focused on genotype-based tailored dietary advice; however, PN can also be delivered based on assessment of dietary intake and phenotypic measures. Whilst dietitians currently provide PN advice based on diet and phenotype, genotype-based PN advice is not so readily available. The aim of this review is to examine the evidence for genotype-based personalised information on motivating behaviour change, and factors which may affect the impact of genotype-based personalised advice. Recent findings in PN will also be discussed, with respect to a large European study, Food4Me, which investigated the impact of varying levels of PN advice on motivating behaviour change. The researchers reported that PN advice resulted in greater dietary changes compared with general healthy eating advice, but no additional benefit was observed for PN advice based on phenotype and genotype information. Within Food4Me, work from our group revealed that knowledge of MTHFR genotype did not significantly improve intakes of dietary folate. In general, evidence is weak with regard to genotype-based PN advice. For future work, studies should test the impact of PN advice developed on a strong nutrigenetic evidence base, ensure an appropriate study design for the research question asked, and incorporate behaviour change techniques into the intervention.

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* Corresponding author: C. B. O'Donovan, email
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