Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Can Diet Be Tailored to Suit Our Genes?

foetus

The long-term impact of what your mother ate and drank, whether she was underweight or overweight and whether she smoked during pregnancy influences your chances of becoming obese, diabetic and even developing certain cancers.

By Helen Truby

Lifestyle factors such as a eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, getting a good night’s sleep and keeping physically active are the best way to help your genes keep you healthy.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The completion of the human genome project heralded an era of possibility that we would be able to predict our risk of developing diseases and design effective preventative initiatives. From a nutritionist’s point of view, direct links between health outcomes and food are tantalising, and beg the question: “Is your health destiny already fixed via our genetic code or can our food and lifestyle choices make a difference?”

Epigenetics, the study of how our genes are expressed when exposed to environmental influences, demonstrates that our journey in utero profoundly influences the risk of developing specific diseases. The long-term impact of what your mother ate and drank, whether she was underweight or overweight and whether she smoked during pregnancy influences your chances of becoming obese, diabetic and even developing certain cancers. Conversely, an optimal maternal nutrition environment, which includes breast-feeding, can bestow a protective effect with the offspring’s genetic expression enabling DNA to repair itself and thus be more resistant to disease.

So, is it worth encouraging healthy eating behaviours and adopting physical activity as part of our usual routine if our genes and intrauterine environment have already programmed us for a lifetime of weight gain?

Evidence that our environment and lifestyle play a crucial role comes from the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.