Nutrigenomics and Personalized Nutrition: Science and Concept

Martin Kussmann; Laurent B. Fay


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

In This Article

Humans are Different

Humans span a remarkable range of phenotypes. Healthy human adults largely vary in their physical appearance, physical and cognitive performance, and in their food preference and requirements. Humans are most alike at birth, but as they progress through various life stages, they diversify into numerous lifestyles.

The 20th century witnessed a large scientific investment to elucidate the basic biological processes of humans, detailing biochemistry from genetics to physiology. However, most of that research focused on the common motifs and features of these processes across all humans. More recently, scientists have started to catalogue and understand the molecular basis behind the variation across humans.

Humans differ at the level of a wide range of basic biological variables. These variables are, in some cases, genetically determined chromosomal differences, for example, male and female, or allelic polymorphisms in structural or regulatory regions of specific genes. Differences are also due to the age and particular life stage of an individual (e.g., pregnancy, lactation, infancy, puberty, pre- and post-menopause and elderly). Other differences are derived from environmental influences that are either exogenous and random (e.g., exposure to sunlight, toxins and allergens), or endogenous and linked to a chosen lifestyle (e.g., excess or balanced caloric intake, meal frequency, exercise or sedentary behavior, regular sleep cycle or frequent change between time zones or shift work). Furthermore, each of these variables may exert effects on (epi)genetic or nongenetic elements, thereby conferring persistence of a particular phenotype through some of that individual's subsequent life and altering that individual's response to dietary components.


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