Real Molecular Gastronomy: Nutrigenomics

February 29, 2008 in Food Science, Molecular Gastronomy


Map of human chromosomes

I am going to take a break today from food porn and food photography and not even talk about molecular gastronomy as you have read me do before (Essentialism and Authenticity in Food: Molecular Pablum, Molecular Gastronomy 101: Part 2 – The Nose and receptors, Molecular Gastronomy 101: Biology Basics – Part 1, Molecular Gastronomy for the masses? (A Rant)) but, rather, I am going to talk about the real molecular universe of what we eat and how food becomes us and how that integration changes our bodies.

I am going to introduce you to a bleeding-edge scientific topic called Nutrigenomics.

“Nutri” comes from nutritional (relating to food) and “genomics” is a term we use to refer to the global study of the molecules that hold the information that becomes our bodies and minds (your genes or DNA, RNA, and other heritable and informational chemical structures).

You may or may have not noticed, in 2001, that the Celera based Private Human Genome Project announced that it had completed a good portion of the sequencing (chemical deciphering) of the entire human genome. Last year (2007), the founder of Celera, Craig Venter, published the sequence data from his own DNA, presenting the 6 billion letter genome of a single person for the first time.

Lots of this information is like an undecorated Christmas tree, lacking ornaments and meaning. It is through the combined study of the genomic data paired with information about a disease state or some other function that the true promise of all these billions of dollars of work is met.

These days, genomics is paired with super dense information about the proteins that your genes make and also ways that your genes are regulated (systems biology, pathway analysis, proteomics, etc) to help scientists understand to the molecular level exactly what is happening in your cells.

Nutrigenomics is a common-sense next step and is fantastically important for our way of life and that of our children for generations to come.

Nutrigenomics is determining how your body (your specific body, one day in the future) uses the food you eat. It is going to help us understand how the food we eat impacts our chemistry and the way our genes behave – why some of us get fat, some of us get diabetes, some of us get alzheimers, some of us get allergies, some of us grow larger others short, some of us are predisposed to heart attacks, etc.

Our nutritional state can make some genes be read abnormally and others not read at all (think autoimmune disease and cancer). Food that you put in your mouth has a direct effect on your genes and your genes have a direct impact on the way the food you eat becomes your body.

More important though, it will help us get molecular and get honest about the effect of the types of foods and the quality of that food has on our bodies.

The Chinese and other ancient cultures have known this simple truth for millennia – food can be medicine. Food can be medicine because what we eat BECOMES us.