23andMe And Your Genetic Blueprint
A fair amount of airtime has been given to genetic research in the news over the last year. Medical news articles keep popping up in the health sections of major newspapers around the country. Topics on individualized medicine have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and the Washington Post. Just recently, an interesting article appeared in the Baltimore Sun, titled “Gene Variant Makes Heart Drug Ineffective.” In summary, a patient was responding poorly to a heart medication, which can result in serious, life-threatening side effects. The local hospital evaluates their patients for genetic variances and finds that 30 percent of the patients have a variation on a specific gene that affects normal liver detoxification pathways and the breakdown of the medication.
Medications are taken to target a certain function in the body, and any excess will go to the liver to be broken down and excreted out of the body. Technically, it is a biochemical pathway called the Cytochrome P450 pathway.
Pharmacogenomics determines how a person’s own genes react and respond to drugs. Likewise, we now have the ability to do genetic testing and form a basis of optimum health through individualized medical nutrition.
For example, we all know the attributes of coffee and caffeine in your diet. Having the right amount can be beneficial. Coffee can act as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are chemicals found in foods that fight free radicals. Free radicals come from environmental toxins that can damage healthy cells in your body. Long-term inflammation from high concentrations of free radicals can turn into various illness like cancer, diabetes, and degenerative changes in your joints (for example, osteoarthritis).
Unfortunately, a small percentage of the coffee-consumer population has bad side effects. Too much coffee, as well as inefficient breakdown of the caffeine, results in bad symptoms: nervousness, muscle twitching, headaches, insomnia, heart palpitations and stomach ulcers.
It turns out that caffeine is biochemically broken down and metabolized in Phase I liver detoxification. If you have a variant of the gene or genes that prevent you from metabolizing caffeine, then you become a candidate to get sick from it.
The starting point in determining your genetic variants is through the company 23andMe. The genetic variants are also called SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms). These SNPs influence an important biochemical pathway called methylation. Methylation controls how your body grows and repairs, removes toxins and functions properly. Your genes turn on and off based on the environment around them. That environmental influence is termed epigenetics. A large part of this environmental is nutritionally based, and this mechanism protects you, and keeps you from getting sick and moving in the direction of chronic diseases.
There has been a lot of recent progress in individualized nutritional biochemistry and its positive effects on epigenetics from genetic testing and analysis. Therefore, we now have specific nutrients and diet-based applications that make the methylation pathways run smoothly. In doing so, we can optimize our genetic blueprint and expression. Good health and quality of life is dependent on our genetic SNP variants, and we now have the tools to personalize and optimize our nutritional wellbeing.