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Nutrigenomics in the modern era

  • John C. Mathers (a1)

The concept that interactions between nutrition and genetics determine phenotype was established by Garrod at the beginning of the 20th century through his ground-breaking work on inborn errors of metabolism. A century later, the science and technologies involved in sequencing of the human genome stimulated development of the scientific discipline which we now recognise as nutritional genomics (nutrigenomics). Much of the early hype around possible applications of this new science was unhelpful and raised expectations, which have not been realised as quickly as some would have hoped. However, major advances have been made in quantifying the contribution of genetic variation to a wide range of phenotypes and it is now clear that for nutrition-related phenotypes, such as obesity and common complex diseases, the genetic contribution made by SNP alone is often modest. There is much scope for innovative research to understand the roles of less well explored types of genomic structural variation, e.g. copy number variants, and of interactions between genotype and dietary factors, in phenotype determination. New tools and models, including stem cell-based approaches and genome editing, have huge potential to transform mechanistic nutrition research. Finally, the application of nutrigenomics research offers substantial potential to improve public health e.g. through the use of metabolomics approaches to identify novel biomarkers of food intake, which will lead to more objective and robust measures of dietary exposure. In addition, nutrigenomics may have applications in the development of personalised nutrition interventions, which may facilitate larger, more appropriate and sustained changes in eating (and other lifestyle) behaviours and help to reduce health inequalities.

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Corresponding author
Corresponding author: Professor John C. Mathers, fax +44 (0) 191 2081101; email
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