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The significance of nutrigenomics and pharmacogenomics in times of COVID  

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The success of the Human Genome Project and the development of genomics tools have catalysed a new era in medicine and nutrition. In light of the same, concepts such as pharmacogenomics and nutrigenomics are slowly picking up momentum. Both these concepts have grown out of their genetic forbears as large-scale genomics technologies have been developed in the last decade. The aim of both disciplines is to personalise medicine, food and nutrition, and ultimately establish good health, by tailoring the drug or the food to the individual genotype. Dr Amol Raut, CEO, Genetic Healing, in a conversation with Raelene Kambli, delves deep into explaining the 2 concepts and their relevance in today’s times

Excerpt…(For the full version of the interview watch our get updated series)

Let’s begin with understanding the concept of nutrigenomics and how important is this concept in the present scenario?

Nutrigenomics is a science-based on learnings from the Human Genome Project. Science enables us to understand how an individual is unique based on his or her genetic make-up and also the metabolic strengths and weaknesses. This information further can be used in two ways, predicting tendencies of Lifestyle diseases and also in managing stubborn cases. In current times, nutrigenomics can also be useful in understanding how immunity can be further enhanced in an individual by providing the right support to metabolic activities such as oxidative stress, inflammation, detoxification, etc. Hence it can help in providing further personalisation in improving the ability to resist and fight against infections.

And what is the difference between nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics?

Nutrigenomics involves studying the impact of foods on genes. How genes can be switched On and Off. For eg, gluten from wheat is known to trigger excessive inflammation in some individuals genetically susceptible to it. Hence avoiding gluten is important for such people.

Nutrigenetics is the science where identifying which nutrients one could be deficient in, is done based on the genetic information. Hence, it helps in understanding the nutrient requirement based on genes. For eg. some individuals have a genetic variation in some vitamin B9 genes which makes them prone to deficiency and hence increases the requirement of such vitamins.

Do you use the applications of genetic diagnostics to offer lifestyle changes to food and medicine habits to patients?

At Genetic Healing, we have been very closely working with endocrinologists, cardiologists, diabetologists where they can use Genetic tests for the following purposes :

  • Identifying more appropriate Drugs for clinical management of a patient. This science is known as Pharmacogenomics.
  • Identifying right diet, exercise and lifestyle choices based on a person’s genetic makeup for preventive management or active management of lifestyle disease.

Both the above methods are considered as a diagnostic tool for a better understanding of the patient and providing them with personalised care.

How does this concept really fit into modern medical practice? And how does this intertwine with lifestyle medicine? Do you work with endocrinologists or other experts? 

Personalisation is the need of the hour and the future of medicine and healthcare. Personalisation cannot be brought more effectively in practice without genetic analysis and hence Nutrigenomics and Pharmacogenomics become a very effective tool. It hence can be considered as a tool of present and future. Such approaches bring precision in disease management reducing trial and error. This also increases the adherence of a patient towards treatment and encourages the patient to stay connected with one expert rather than hopping from one doctor to the other.

As mentioned earlier we have been working very closely with doctors, dieticians and other health care experts for the last 7 years and have handled testing for around 15000 individuals in India.

We have seen a growing significance of pharmacogenetics. How do you see this field growing and what role will it play in the coming years, especially to understand newer pathogens or antibiotic resistance?

Though the science is new to many but three main areas are to address in this field :

  • Research: Continual research is needed so that we generate more and more evidence of the said science. This will help in enriching our understanding of the subject
  • Practice: Doctors and dieticians should not wait and start practising the science by understanding its scope and limitations
  • Training and Awareness: Training about the science to the Health care experts and awareness drives amongst common man is the key to enhancing the utility of Nutrigenomics and Pharmacogenomics.

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Raelene Kambli
[email protected]

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