An emerging area of interest in the exciting time of personalised medicine and DNA testing is the emerging field of ‘culinary genomics.’ This concept combines genomics, the study of genes and their functions, with the knowledge of nutritional science. Described by Amanda Archibald, a pioneer in this particular field ‘[Culinary genomics] is the art of choosing, preparing and cooking ingredients in a language recognised by your DNA with the goal of reducing the primary causes of chronic disease and accelerated ageing.’
Culinary genomics focuses on the connections of food-gene relationships related to issues common to many chronic diseases including inflammation, oxidative stress, gastrointestinal health, detoxification and fluctuations in blood glucose and lipid levels. Appreciation of food, including taste as well as supporting sustainable agricultural practices are pivotal to the field.
Plant bioactives can ‘switch on’ or influence cells to perform certain biochemical activities which can influence genomics.[3,4] Phytochemicals such as polyphenolic compounds, carotenoids, glucosinolates, alkaloids and terpenes are plant bioactives and can be found in many of the foods we consume, many of which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions in the body. Lycopene, quercetin and resveratrol are common examples of these bioactive compounds. Many of these plant bioactives are known to influence chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and cancer.
A person’s individual genetic predisposition can influence the interaction with these bioactives. Apolipoprotein (Apo) E plays an essential role in the metabolism of cholesterol and triacylglycerols with variants in these gene leading to alterations in lipoprotein metabolism. In a study of ApoE gene variants, those with hypercholesterolemia who had ApoE4 variants, administered plant sterols were found to experience less decreases in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol than ApoE2/E3 carriers. This suggests that plant sterol therapy may be of little value for E4 subjects with hypercholesterolemia, while it may be more successful for ApoE2/E3 carriers.
Antioxidant rich foods are known to be helpful for CVD and metabolic syndrome. A recent 2018 study has demonstrated a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome in individuals with elevated odds to developing this condition (AA genotype of rs1333048 on the 9p21 genetic locus) when exposed to antioxidant treatment. This suggests the benefits of an antioxidant rich diet for those with a genetic predisposition toward developing metabolic syndrome.
Knowing the interaction of genetic variants and plant bioactives with the vitamins and minerals we consume in our diet is certainly the future of food consumption and individualised medicine, with culinary genomics leading the way.
- Human genomics in global health. World Health Organization. [Source]
- Culinary genomics. [Source]
- The genomic kitchen. [Source]
- Bayram B, González-Sarrías A, Istas G, et al. Breakthroughs in the health effects of plant food bioactives: a perspective on microbiomics, nutri(epi)genomics, and metabolomics. J Agric Food Chem. 2018;66(41):10686-10692. [Full text]
- Sanchez-Muniz FJ, Maki KC, Schaefer EJ, et al. Serum lipid and antioxidant responses in hypercholesterolemic men and women receiving plant sterol esters vary by apolipoprotein E genotype. J Nutr. 2009;139(1):13-19. [Abstract]
- Mirzababaei A, Mollahosseini M, Rahimi MR, et al. Interaction between a variant of chromosome 9p21.3 locus and diet antioxidant capacity on metabolic syndrome in Tehrani adults. Diabetol Metab Syndr 2018;10:76. [Full text]