What is Nutrigenomics?

Kazumi Iino iino@i-techno-office.com

Nutrigenomics is a very new word in the food and scientific fields. It is now emerging as a business, as introduced in Newsweek and other popular journals.

The term "-genomics" represents genes and similar words, an example being pharmacogenomics. Nutrigenomics is the study of food and nutrition focused mainly on the interactions with diseases and human-specific genes. Recently the word "nutrigenetics" is being used to refer to study of the effects of genetic variation and gene-nutrient interactions in the management of chronic diseases

(ref: Experimental Biology 2003 Nutrition and Metabolism Program Nutrition And Metabolism Program Highlights). Both are novel terms covering cutting-edge science. Practically speaking, the terms are often combined as ?nutrigenetics / nutrigenomics? in academic symposia and conferences.

The prime reason for the expansion of nutrigenomics is the completion of Human Genome Project, with the focuses of genomic studies shifting to functional genomic analyses. The functional elucidation of specific genomes will yield not only the feasibilities of new drugs but also the ways of preventing specific diseases. Nutrition and food iwill then be recognized as important tools for disease prevention.

Secondly, preventive medicine including nutrition and food should be discussed more scientifically throughout the world, especially in developed countries like the USA and Japan, where the aging of people and the pursuit of higher QOL (quality of life) become important issues for academia and industry. Nutrigenomics / nutrigenetics sessions have been set up at many international food-related symposia and congresses.


Nutrigenomics is surely expected to be the next wave for food industry, even though only a few practical ideas have emerged. One business model is the development of customized nutraceuticals based on specific genetic profiles:

GeneLink and Garden State Nutritionals

Another model may be foods for specified health use, which are already on the Japanese market. In Japan, about 350 items have been approved as food for specified health use by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Each item has a specific health claim, such as food for hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. based on clinical studies. All products have been developed based on scientific analysis and data, even though not yet on the genetic level yet. The foods are expected to expand the field of nutrigenomics.

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