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Could your Genes be the answer?

If there’s one thing the last several decades of nutrition research have proven, it’s that there is no “one-size-fits-all diet”. And we finally know the answer why.. Its our genetics that determine what the best diet is for us as an individual. We are on an age where we can now test our very own genome to better understand what foods and nutrients will help us to thrive.This particularly suits those who find it hard to lose weight, or have ongoing mental health challenges, who may find their energy is low all the time or have those niggling health complaints that they just can’t seem to get on top of.

In this blog I explore what Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics are, the benefits of testing and how you can benefit from it.

What is Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics?

“Nutrigenomics is the study of the relationship between genomics, nutrition, and health”.
Nutrigenomics analyses how food affects a person’s genes and how a person’s genes affect the way the body responds to food. It is used to understand how genes and diet together may affect a person’s chance of developing disease by looking at how the whole body responds to micro and macronutrients, as well as the relationship between single genes and single gene/food compound interactions.
Nutrigenetics, on the other hand, looks at the relationship between genes and diet and how the health of an individual is affected. It refers to how your body responds to nutrients because of your existing genetic makeup.

There is increasing evidence that genome instability, in the absence of overt exposure to Genotoxicants, is itself a sensitivity marker of nutritional deficiency-

-Michael Fench, CSIRO Genome Health and nutrigenomics Laboratory

Benefits of Nutrigenomics

Nutrigenomic and nutrigenomic testing can identify the specific forms and amounts of nutrients required for an individual. This increases the practitioner’s knowledge about the ways in which nutrition affects the metabolic pathways underlying homeostatic control. Abnormalities in specific genes can negatively affect many physiological and metabolic processes.
Nutrigenomic testing identifies genetic protein variations to highlight metabolic processes that may require additional support.
As a practitioner I use different types of DNA tests that specifically target the patient’s presentation in order to:
– Determine the unique nutritional base on each patient’s individual DNA analysis – Provide patients with recommended nutritional supplements and nutrients needed for each specific genetic polymorphism (SNP)- Achieve a clear picture of the complex biochemical pathways that may hinder nutritional delivery
Nutrigenomics can help us to create a targeted nutritional treatment plan for our patient’s based on their genetic strengths and weakness.

Some of the areas of focus that nutrigenomics can cover are:

– Specific nutrients requirements in preconception/pregnancy- How your genes contribute to conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression etc. – Diabetes- Detoxification pathways- Weight management – Fluid retention- Fatigue- MTHFR, methylation- Chronic diseases- Auto immune disease- Inflammation- Hormonal imbalance

“The Genome 101”

Your genome is your complete set of DNA, all the genetic instructions for you to grow, develop and function; it is like your instruction manual. These genetic instructions are encoded in 6 billion letters of DN across 46 chromosomes that we inherit from our parents: 23 from each parent. Copies of your genome are contained within your cells.
Your genome includes all of your genes, sections of DNA that cells use as templates to make proteins and other molecules you need to function. However, the vast majority of DNA in the human genome is located outside of genes. This DNA is called non-coding DNA, as it does not encode functional proteins. Non-coding DNA often has other important functions, like regulating how and when genes are used, and controlling the transcription and translation of genes. Differences in your DNA sequence, known as variants, can affect the way your body functions. Variants in genes can change the product that is made – they might cause the gene to produce a non-functioning protein, or sometimes no protein at all. Variants outside of genes can affect the switches that turn genes on and off – for example, a variant might cause a gene to be constantly switched on and producing its product at all times, rather than just when it is needed by the body.

The link between a genome and a diet?

Healthy diet and proper nutrition are the basic necessities of life, playing a key role in preventing disease. But what would it mean to say that the deciding factor in our health was genetic? The association between diet and disease has been made clear time and time again, giving rise to the popular expression “you are what you eat”.
However, whether a disease will manifest is dependent on a series of complex interactions between an individual’s genome and environmental factors. And not surprisingly, diet is one of the most important environmental factors.

“There is no one size fit all diet”

So, what is the link between our genes and nutrition?

Numerous studies have demonstrated that macronutrients (protein, fatty acids, and carbohydrates), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and naturally occurring bioreactivity chemicals (phytochemicals including flavonoids and carotenoids) regulate gene expression in many diverse ways. Many of the micronutrients and bioreactive chemicals in foods are directly involved in metabolic reactions that determine everything from hormonal balances to detoxification pathways to immune responses.
Some of the biochemicals in foods act as ligands for transcription factors, thus directly altering gene expression. Nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics are the main two fields that focus on how nutrition and diet interact with our genetics.

Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs)

Your body is constantly making new cells. To do this, each cell must make a copy of the DNA contained within them. Occasionally they can make small errors during this process. These are called single nucleotide polymorphism or SNPs (pronounced ‘snips”).
SNPs are the most common type of genetic variation among people. In fact, it is estimated that you have around 10 million SNPs in total. While many SNPs don’t seem to have any obvious effect, some may lead to differences in your health or physical appearance.
They may also help predict your risk of developing certain diseases, your response to different medications, nutrients, and environmental factors such as toxins. Conversely, dietary factors may differentially alter the effect of one or more SNPs to increase or decrease risk of disease.
Much of the Nutrigenomic focus has been on a single- nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).Several genes within our genomes are known to influence the metabolism of nutrients. Testing genetic SNPs assists in evaluating their impact on changing eating habits.
For example, a targeted low saturated fat diet proves beneficial in preventing the risk of developing high cholesterol with people with APOE SNPs. Similarly, increasing dietary folate and riboflavin while reducing toxin exposure has proven beneficial in lowering homocysteine levels and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in those with a MTHFR polymorphism.

If you feel you have tried “everything” and you can’t quite shift the weight, get to the bottom of your mental health challenges, are confused about information regarding folate/folic acid and you are looking for tailored treatment specific to your genetic make-up, I would love to help you! Please click here to make a booking.


Serena Di Modugno, Adv Dip Nat, Adv Dip WHM, Currently studying BHSc Nutritional Medicine
Serena is a qualified naturopath with a focus on MTHFR, allergies, and anxiety
Learn more about Serena Here
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