Emerging Science with Potential to Influence Dietary Advice: Position of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on Nutritional Genomics

The science of nutritional genomics is an emerging discipline and holds potential for targeting dietary intervention that may affect health, according to a new position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The position paper “Nutritional Genomics” has been published in the February issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The Academy’s position is: Nutritional genomics provides insight into diet and genotype interactions to affect phenotype. The practical application of nutritional genomics for complex chronic disease is an emerging science and the use of nutrigenetic testing to provide dietary advice is not ready for routine dietetics practice. Registered dietitian nutritionists need basic competency in genetics as a foundation for understanding nutritional genomics; proficiency requires advanced knowledge and skills.

The genome is the entire set of genetic instructions needed to build and maintain a living organism. Nutritional genomic is the science of how nutrients and genes work together to influence health and disease risk. According to the Academy’s position paper, chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer are caused by multiple genetic and environmental factors, including diet. “Family history, biochemical parameters and the presence of risk factors in individuals are relevant tools for personalizing dietary interventions.” Nutritional genomics is still “an emerging science,” according to the position paper. Connections between nutrigenetic testing and dietary advice can be made once further research has been documented. However, “the use of nutrigenetic testing to provide dietary advice is not ready for routine dietetics practice,” according to the Academy’s position paper.

“Applying nutritional genomics in clinical practice through the use of genetic testing requires that registered dietitian nutritionists understand, interpret and communicate complex test results in which the actual risk of developing a disease may not be known,” according to the paper. The practical application of nutritional genomics for complex chronic disease will require “an evidence-based approach to validate that personalized recommendations result in health benefits to individuals and do not cause harm,” according to the position paper.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 

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