Nutrigenomics and Personalized Nutrition: Science and Concept

Martin Kussmann; Laurent B. Fay


Personalized Medicine. 2008;5(5):447-455. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Diet and genomes interact. Nutrition has the most important life-long environmental impact on human health. While nutrigenetics addresses how an individual's genetic makeup predisposes for dietary susceptibility, nutrigenomics asks how nutrition influences the expression of the genome. Nutrigenomics builds on the three omics disciplines transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics. They are a prerequisite for nutritional systems biology, the understanding of the interaction between food components and diet with cells, organs and the whole body. Personalized nutrition is a conceptual analog to personalized medicine. While there are food products available that address requirements or preferences of specific consumer groups, these products are based on empirical consumer science rather than on nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics. The latter two build the science foundation for understanding human variability in preferences, requirements and responses to diet, and may become the future tools for consumer assessment motivated by personalized nutritional counseling for health maintenance and disease prevention.


Traditionally, nutrition research has dealt with providing nutrients to nourish populations. Nowadays, it focuses on improving the health of individuals through diet. Modern molecular nutritional research is aiming at health promotion and disease prevention and at performance improvement.[1] Personalized nutrition is the concept of adapting food to individual needs. While it has become apparent that consumers respond differently to diet, depending on their genetic makeup, lifestyle and environment, the related knowledge and understanding remain fragmented.[2] However, there is an increasing consumer awareness of understanding and assessing individual health status and nutritional needs. Responding to this changing consumer landscape, the nutrition business is developing products according to needs and desired benefits of specific consumer groups, be they healthy, at risk or diseased, such as sportive, elderly, diabetic, obese or allergic individuals.[3]

The challenge in bringing personalized nutrition to the market lies in developing diagnostic, nutritional and service solutions. We have to identify consumer demands, define biomarkers of bioavailability, bioefficacy and disposition, assess measuring technologies, and translate research into business models. For example, measuring technologies are being evaluated in terms of their maturity and consumer accessibility. All these activities are currently ongoing in parallel in the private and public sector.[3]

Nutrition has traditionally been considered an integral part of health maintenance and disease prevention (for example in ancient cultures such as China), but based on epidemiological surveys. The task is now to take personalized nutrition to the scientific level: in model studies, gene, protein and metabolite profiles of individuals in different health and nutritional conditions are analyzed. It is expected to find early signs (biomarkers) for deviations from healthy metabolism, and targets for possibly correcting these deviations by nutritional means.[4] The goal is to reveal human body reactions towards different diets at gene, protein and metabolite level in order to demonstrate nutritional efficacy.[5] Discovery technologies applied at gene, protein and metabolite level in the context of nutrition and health have the potential to deliver biomarkers for health and digestive comfort, reveal early indicators for disease disposition, differentiate dietary responders from nonresponders, and discover bioactive, beneficial food components.[6] The vision of developing personalized nutrition for health promotion and disease prevention requires the construction of a sound scientific basis for this concept.


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