In recent years, genetics has made great strides, discovering new relationships between our genes, our eating habits and our state of health. The rapid expansion of the genetic testing market is a direct consequence of this new knowledge on the one hand, and on the other of a regulatory vacuum that has favored the proliferation of small and non-transparent companies.
In this context, Eurogenetica with its multi-year experience wants to be a point of reference for healthcare professionals and for companies that want to operate seriously in this innovative sector. The founder of Eurogenetics - Dr Keith Grimaldi - has been working in the field of genetic testing for over 15 years and is considered one of the world's top experts in the field of personal genetics.
Our approach is rigorously scientific, based on reliable data and consolidated by dozens of studies. This is because we care about the health of our customers, and we believe that the only way to protect it is to limit ourselves to what is claimed by scientific research, without false promises or high-sounding proclamations.
Eurogenetica grew from an EU project...
Eurogene - http://eurogene.biomed.ntua.gr/
The EU awarded an eTEN grant of €1.12million over 18 months to the Eurogene consortium (Scientific Director: Dr Keith Grimaldi) to setup and implement nutrigenetic services in the clinic. It is not a research grant but a market validation study for a product or service already existing that has market potential. The scope of the eTEN programme:
“Supporting the deployment of trans-European e-services in the public interest. The programme aimed to accelerate the take-up of services to sustain the European social model of an inclusive, cohesive society. “
In other words…to help existing services overcome barriers to market entry. To help get valuable services more penetrance in the market and encourage wider take-up.
The nutrigenetic service was judged by the INDEPENDENT expert review committee to be a valuable service which could have a positive impact on health in Europe. Some quotes from the reviewers:
“the service is focused on the informed patient and the methods applied improving patients conformance to treatment”
"The proposed service is very important and a high impact is anticipated"
"The ability to support a healthy lifestyle through e-services proposed by the proposal contributes strongly to inclusiveness"
Nutrigenetics and the scientific basis
Why the scepticism?
A mixture of misinformation, misunderstanding, miscommunication and of course too much hype and extravagant, hard to believe, claims from some commercial operators.
What is it?
Scientifically, nutrigenetics is the study of how genetic variation in individual genes affects an individual’s response to particular nutrients and toxins in the diet.
What is it trying to do?
Nutrigenetics aims to use genotype information from an individual to determine the properties of the proteins coded by certain genes and the effect this has on metabolism, transport and assimilation of nutrients in the diet and the effect on elimination of toxins. A genetic variation, e.g. a SNP, can affect the activity of an enzyme which can affect the metabolism of a nutrient such as folic acid. This is exactly analogous to pharmacogenetics where the variation in a gene affects the rate of drug metabolism.
We have standard guidelines on healthy eating which are based on many years of accumulated scientific evidence mainly from observational and intervention studies (NOT clinical trials). These guidelines have been developed to help maintain a healthy lifestyle for as long as possible. The aim of nutrigenetics is to be able to modify standard dietary guidelines according to the individual genotype and phenotype – again based on many years of accumulated scientific evidence mainly from observational and intervention studies. The level of evidence for nutrigenetics is similar to that used to develop and justify standard guidelines.
What does it mean for the consumer/patient?
The use of genetic information both to guide dietary choices and to inform individuals about the importance of diet, food and metabolism. Nutrigenetics enables us to use genotype and phenotype to improve our understanding of how food works together with the body. The information aspect of the service is extremely important – the scientists use it and learn from it so why shouldn’t the public? As long as the information is provided in a serious, responsible and correct manner then the result will be benefits for the patient/consumer.
Clearly the EU would not be funding these projects (both at research and applied level) if there was not strong science already supporting the fields of nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics.
Is there any scientific evidence for Nutrigenetics?
Yes, a lot. Apart from our own studies (see above) there are literally thousands of peer reviewed studies that have been published over the last two decades that demonstrate gene-diet interactions. The level of scientific study is in general very high and is of similar quality to the scientific evidence used to justify standard dietary advice such as high fruit and vegetables, low saturated fats, low sugars etc.
Will it create the perfect diet?
No. This is not claimed. Using the current evidence that is available in the peer reviewed scientific literature nutrigenetics can be used to create a diet that is better than the standard “one size fits all” guidelines. We still have a LOT to learn, maybe we will never reach that perfect diet, but we do have some knowledge that we can use now, we are taking those essential first steps.
So what is the point, will it really help?
The aim of all dietary advice is to establish good eating habits permanently because good health in later life depends a great deal on how earlier life is lived. Small changes, even apparently insignificant changes, can make a big difference over 10-20 years. For example the calorie excess per day required to gain 15 Kg from age 20 to age 40 is only 10 calories, that’s just half a spoonful of sugar extra per day!
What nutrigenetics is NOT:
Nutrigenetics is not a diagnostic nor a predictor of disease. It makes no attempt to determine relative risks and odds ratios of complex diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc. The focus of attention of nutrigenetics is generally not the final disease but the many intermediate “risk factors” such as homocysteine, LDL cholesterol, hypertension etc. cardiovascular disease for example has many possible causes (hypertension, high cholesterol, inflammation, etc) and each gene-diet interaction focuses on just one area. For example the knowledge of the MTHFR genotype is not used to predict the risk of heart disease or stroke but to define the daily requirement for folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12. It has been demonstrated many many times that individuals with the 677TT version of the enzyme WILL have raised homocysteine if there is not adequate folic acid in the diet. Therefore the nutrigenetic test advice will be to consume an adequate amount of folic acid (600-800 µg / day) – and this WILL keep homocysteine levels lower. Most doctors who find a patient has high homocysteine levels will treat it with folic acid, B6 and B12, the aim of the nutrigenetic test is to ensure adequate amounts of these vitamins are in the diet BEFORE the levels become raised.