Researchers at the University of Colorado conducted a large-scale study that identified nearly 500 genes that have a significant impact on our diets. This discovery opens up new possibilities for creating personalized nutrition strategies based on each person’s genetic makeup.
The study, led by Dr. Joanne Cole, associate professor of biomedical informatics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, is based on data collected from the UK Biobank, which includes information on half a million people. Using the Phenomenon-wide association study (PheWAS), the scientists identified genes that are strongly associated with diet.
One of the key findings of the study was the identification of genes associated with sensory pathways such as the taste, odor and texture of food. These genes can enhance reward responses in the brain, which explains individual food preferences at the genetic level.
Dr. Cole noted that the findings could help develop “sensory genetic profiles” that would allow for personalized dietary recommendations. This means that, in the future, each person could be offered the optimal diet, taking into account their genetic characteristics.
However, the scientist also emphasized that genetics plays a much smaller role in shaping our eating habits than environmental factors. The researchers noted the significant role of factors such as cultural background, socioeconomic status and the availability of different types of food.
Dr. Cole’s research will be presented at NUTRITION 2023, an annual event organized by the American Society for Nutrition. This will be an opportunity for other scientists and nutrition experts to learn about the study and discuss its significance.
The methodology of the study was challenging because of the relationship between dietary habits and other elements such as health and socioeconomic factors. However, the team of scientists was able to overcome this obstacle by applying computational methods and analyzing detailed health and socioeconomic data from the UK biobank.
The study identified nearly 300 genes that directly influence the consumption of certain foods, as well as nearly 200 genes associated with common dietary patterns, such as fish or fruit consumption. These results provide a better understanding of the relationship between a person’s genetic makeup and their eating habits.
Dr. Cole and her colleagues’ study is an important step toward creating personalized nutritional strategies. However, the scientists note that much work remains to be done to fully understand the genetic underpinnings of our diets and develop optimal recommendations.