parajumpers poloshirt A Look into the Future of Nutrition Reseach

parajumpers poloshirt A Look into the Future of Nutrition Reseach

parajumpers poloshirt A Look into the Future of Nutrition Reseach

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Nutrition research in the future will increasingly focus on the ways in which our genes are affected by what we eat. Foods that are safer and more nutritious, new medical treatments and novel ways to help save the environment these are just some of the potential benefits that are expected to be derived from such research.

Genetic research can be applied to the field of nutrition in many ways, whether it is to increase the nutritional value of a food, to identify ways to reduce an individual’s risk of certain diseases, or to identify optimal health promoting diets. With the arrival of the first draft of the human genome, a whole new chapter in understanding health and nutrition has arrived.

In February 2000 two independent teams of researchers raced against the clock to simultaneously publish their findings in two of the world’s most prestigious journals „Nature and Science“. The first „rough draft“ of the human genome had been unraveled. This is an astonishing achievement when one considers that the complete sequence of the human genome consists of 3.2 billion letters and is so enormous that it can only be published on the Internet. It has been estimated that it would take more than 75,000 pages of a newspaper just to print the full sequence!

Research on the human genome has required a thorough understanding of cell function and reproduction. To help those not involved in the study of genetics to get a basic understanding of the science involved, the following paragraphs very briefly review the structure and function of various aspects of the human genome.

There are four possible bases and each one is matched to a specific partner on the opposite chain. Adenine (A) is paired with thymine (T), and guanine (G) is paired with cytosine (C). All of the information needed for a cell to function or reproduce is locked in the sequence made up of these four bases. This sequence is repeated millions and even billions of times throughout the genome. Every life form on the planet uses this same language and hence, the particular order of the bases adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine is important because this is what makes a human a human, rather than an earthworm. In other words, it is the sequence of bases that underlies the diversity of organisms. The DNA sequences hold the secret of every life form from bacteria to humans, and science now has the power to decode these books of life called genomes.

A genome consists of all of the DNA molecules in an organism, including those in genes. (A gene is a sub unit of DNA that determines an individual’s inherited characteristics such as eye colour). Genomes vary in size depending on their source. For example, the smallest known genome is from a bacterium and has 600,000 DNA base pairs (bps). The human genome has about 3 billion base pairs. While genes get a lot of attention, it’s the proteins in the cell that actually do all the work. Genes carry information to enable the cell to make proteins. The proteins in turn determine a whole host of features such as what the organism will look like, how well it functions and perhaps even how it behaves.

Research using the knowledge from the Human Genome Project will ultimately enable scientists to understand the functions of human genes and the laws that regulate how they are switched on and off. This knowledge will provide them with information on how genes and nutrients interact and the effect of individual genetic differences on diet and nutrition. For example, the actual way in which some nutrients such as those from milk, fruits and vegetables, produce desirable changes in metabolism is largely unknown. Research can help to identify these effects and help to understand why certain ingredients and foods are of benefit to health. Similarly, the genetic basis behind the differences in how some people respond to particular foods and nutrients can be identified and used to recommend foods and diets that are most beneficial for each individual. Studies into gene and nutrient interactions will also help to provide new information for developing more accurate biomarkers (indicators) to detect various diseases much earlier and identify the genes that can be targeted by nutritional intervention to prevent them.

The next issue of FoodToday will look more closely at the implications this research has for future advances in health and nutrition.

Cells are the fundamental units of all living systems and all of the information or instructions needed to direct cell activity can be found in a substance called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). DNA is found in the nucleus of the cell. In humans, and all higher animals, a DNA molecule consists of two strands of DNA that wrap around one another to resemble a twisted ladder. The sides of the ladder are made up of sugar molecules (deoxyribose) while the rungs consist of chemical compounds called bases.
parajumpers poloshirt A Look into the Future of Nutrition Reseach