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  • Writer's pictureJared Potter

Decoding Your Diet: How Science Tailors Your Diet to Your DNA

Updated: Mar 14

Companies specializing in personalized nutrition use a combination of bioinformatics, machine learning, and genomic science to analyze genetic data and create tailored dietary plans. This process involves several steps and utilizes advanced technologies to interpret the complex interactions between genetics, metabolism, and nutrition. In other words, this post could get a little technical :).

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Here's an overview of how these companies leverage these technologies to produce precise nutritional recommendations if you want to see some of the secret sauce:

Genetic Data Collection

Genetic Data Collection

  1. DNA Sampling: The first step involves collecting DNA samples from individuals, usually through saliva or cheek swabs, which are then sent to a laboratory for sequencing. Think 23andme if you've ever taken a direct to consumer consumer genetic test.

  2. Sequencing and Genotyping: The DNA samples are sequenced or genotyped to identify specific single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and other genetic variations (remember our last post). This data forms the basis for analyzing an individual's genetic predispositions related to how your body uses nutrients, metabolism and health risks

Bioinformatics Analysis

Bioinformatics Analysis

  1. Data Processing: Bioinformatics tools are used to process and analyze the raw genetic data. This involves aligning DNA sequences, identifying SNPs and other genetic markers, and annotating these variations with information from scientific databases.

  2. Genetic Variations and Annotations: The variations are then analyzed in the context of their known or predicted effects on nutrient metabolism, disease risks, and other health-related traits. This step requires access to vast databases and scientific literature that link specific genetic variations to particular health outcomes or nutritional needs. These are constantly being researched, updated, reported in the scientific community and validated by private companies.

Machine Learning and Predictive Modeling

Machine Learning and Predictive Modeling

  1. Pattern Recognition: Machine learning algorithms are employed to recognize patterns and correlations between genetic markers and nutritional needs or health outcomes. These models can handle the massive complexity and interactions of genetic data, dietary factors, and health parameters.

  2. Predictive Analytics: Advanced predictive models are developed to forecast health risks and nutrient requirements based on genetic makeup. These models continuously improve as they are fed more data, enhancing their accuracy in making personalized nutritional recommendations.

A lot of fruit all put together to look like a tree

Integration with Nutritional Science

  1. Dietary Algorithms: Information from bioinformatics and machine learning analyses is integrated with current nutritional science to develop algorithms that can generate personalized dietary advice. These algorithms consider not only genetic factors but also current health status, lifestyle, preferences, and goals.

  2. Nutrient Optimization: The algorithms are designed to optimize the levels of macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) in the diet based on individual genetic profiles, aiming to prevent nutrient deficiencies, reduce disease risk, and promote overall health.

Personalized Dietary Plans

A Pause For Privacy

Som3 Examples and Context:

The following are a few examples commonly identified and referenced in applying nutrigenomics to make nutritional recommendations around macronutrient ratios, micronutrient needs, and dietary sensitivities:

Macronutrient Ratios

  1. Fatty Acid Desaturase (FADS1 and FADS2): Variations in these genes affect the metabolism of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), influencing the optimal balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet.

  2. APOA2: This gene influences individual responses to saturated fat intake, with certain variants being associated with a higher risk of obesity in the context of high saturated fat consumption.

  3. PPARG: Variants of this gene are linked to differential responses to the amount of monounsaturated fats and carbohydrates in the diet, affecting insulin sensitivity and risk of type 2 diabetes.

Micronutrient Needs

  1. MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase): Variants, especially C677T, affect folate metabolism, increasing the need for dietary folate or supplementation to prevent elevated homocysteine levels, which are a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Gary Brecka loves to talk about this one on podcasts and other outlets. You can check out his explanation and video here

  2. SLC23A1: Influences vitamin C transport, with certain variants linked to a higher requirement for vitamin C to achieve optimal health benefits.

  3. HFE: Certain mutations in this gene are associated with hereditary hemochromatosis, affecting iron absorption and increasing the risk of iron overload. Individuals with these mutations may need to manage dietary iron intake carefully

Dietary Sensitivities

  1. LCT (Lactase): Variants in the LCT gene influence lactase persistence, determining whether an adult can digest lactose. Those with lactase non-persistence (lactose intolerance) may need to avoid or limit lactose-containing foods.

  2. HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8: These genetic markers are associated with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten. Individuals with these markers have a significantly increased risk of developing celiac disease and must follow a strict gluten-free diet.

  3. ALDH2 (Aldehyde Dehydrogenase 2): A variant in this gene affects alcohol metabolism. Individuals with the ALDH2*2 allele experience adverse reactions to alcohol, such as flushing, and may need to limit or avoid alcohol consumption.

Other Considerations

Up Next

In our next post in this series, we will cover steps being taken by science to optimize for peak performance, training and overall physical wellbeing. We will cover topics that have been covered in sport nutrition, fitness blogs and gurus for years. As always I hope you'll provide any feedback and additional resources that you may find that can improve the information we provide to our community. We hope this will become a collaborative effort and one that in time can create a community of users focused on improving our collective understanding. Till next post!

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