Nutritional genomics is an emerging science that is advancing at a rapid rate. This new field has the potential to revolutionize how healthcare practitioners deliver nutritional advice by incorporating genetics into personalized recommendations.
Already some evidence has suggested that genetic variation may result in;
- A difference in how we metabolise fats and carbohydrates
- A differene in our susceptibility to develop Obesity and Type II Diabetes
- A difference in our response to saturated and polyunsaturated fats
- A difference in how we respond to exercise
- A difference in the level of inflammation we experience
As consumer interest in functional foods, well-being and disease prevention increases, so will the demand for healthcare professionals with an interest and expertise in these areas.
Exciting and amazing as it may be, the success of the science depends on the healthcare professionals translating the science and developing practial recommendations for the lay person. A recent study published in the journal of Genes & Nutrition has found that knowledge,involvement and confidence of nutritional genomics is low amongst dietitians in the US,UK and Australia. Dietitians who were eager to embrace clinical opportunities and educational activities on genetics were found to be more confident. However dietitians who were in practice for longer or who did not value the importance of genetics in their practice were less likely to be involved and had lower knowledge (and possibly evaded the topic altogether).
Although there seems to be increased awareness amongst practitioners, involvement in the field lags behind. Nutritional genomics is such a massive field which covers chronic diseases from heart disease to obesity and type 2 Diabetes. The evidence seems to be mounting rapidy and this new knowledge will no doubt take years to filter through to clinical practice. Dietitians are continuously reinventing theselves by aquiring new knowledge, redesigning services and developing new skills. With the presence of digital technology we can more than ever stay on top of new research by signing up to alerts,blogs or journals.
So for the new and old practitioners, with nutritional genomics on your doorstep and the pastures of opportunities for future careers open and green, how will you respond? embrace or evade? do let me know what you decide, because I for one am already in.
Mariëtte Abrahams MBA RD is a freelance dietitian, consultant nutritionist and nutrition business consultant. She is the director of Pomegranate Nutrition Consulting Ltd which specialises in providing technical expertise on nutritional genomics to the Biotechnology, Food and Medical Nutrition industry. She is a media spokesperson for the BDA and has written a book “Practical Nutrigenomics – a guide to setting up your personalised nutrition service”
Reference: The application of genetics and nutritional genomics in practice: an international survey of knowledge,involvement and confidence among dietitians in the US,Australia and the UK. Genes Nutr (2013) DOI.10.10007/s12263-013-0351-9