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Can you genetic makeup predict what you should eat?

A new study conducted by academics at Exeter University will for the first time challenge claims made by companies and governments that we should alter our diet according to our genetic make-up.

The study funded by the UK’s largest independent medical charity, the Wellcome Trust, will explore the marketing of commercial ‘nutrigenomic’ tests, which offer DNA-based dietary advice and have sparked accusations of misleading the public with unwarranted health claims.

‘Nutrigenomics’ is the study of food and diet and how each interacts with specific genes to increase the risk of certain diseases. Scientists across the world are currently investigating how our personal genetic make-up controls how we react to food.

Popular television programmes, such as Gillian McKeith’s ‘You Are What You Eat’, have arguably made us a nation obsessed with our own eating habits. This study, led by researchers the ESRC Centre of Genomics in Society at the University of Exeter, will shed some light on whether we should regulate the field of nutrigenomics and how exactly this should be done.

Lead researcher Dr Paula Saukko comments: “There have been claims that the public is misled by the commercial kit providers. For the first time we are going to investigate what the public is being told by commercial companies and the scientists themselves.

“In the USA there are claims you can make your children more intelligent by tailoring their diet according to their genetic make-up. There is also the ‘DNA diet’ which claims you can lose weight and tone up, and even live longer by following advice based on analysis of your DNA. These tests are available over the internet so there’s nothing to stop the British public from buying them also.”

Clare Matterson, Wellcome Trust Director of Medicine, Society and History said:
“Nutrigenomics is an emerging new field which could potentially transform our view of nutrition. The work of Dr Paulo Saukko and her team at Exeter, is extremely topical coming at a time when we are bombarded by mixed messages about implication of our diet and lifestyle.

Ginny Russell | alfa
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