Nutrigenomics: Eating to your DNA

Grace Brock

Nutrigenomics, the study of how our genes interact with food, has been generating some buzz lately. In a 2016 National Institute of Health study, 73% of adults lost weight on a diet plan tailored specifically to their genes compared to 32% of those on a general diet. 23andMe, and others have made discovering our DNA more accessible than ever. What many of them don’t provide is an analysis on the genes that influence our diet. Below are ten genomes with research behind them that could have a significant effect on what you should be eating and avoiding.

1.     PEMT: rs7946 (T;T)

  •     Choline deficiency, fatty liver

Analysis: 90% of the population consumes a diet deficient in choline. This can lead to a wide range of problems, most notably cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and a fatty liver prone to cirrhosis. Eggs, lean meats, broccoli and cauliflower are a few of the best dietary sources to keep choline levels in range.

2.     PON1: rs705379 (G;G)

  •     Slower pesticide detoxification

Analysis: The PON1 enzyme is responsible for detoxifying pesticides, and those carrying the SNP responsible for lower enzyme activity could be in for higher cardiovascular, Alzheimer’s and diabetes risk among many others. Organic produce, pomegranate juice and a Mediterranean diet are encouraged to boost PON1 activity.

3.     FADS2: rs1535 (G;G)

Analysis: This SNP could determine whether microalgae or fish should be a staple in your diet. Alpha linoleic acid (ALA) is a plant-based shorter chain Omega-3 fatty acid that is converted to the long chain (EPA) and (DHA) found in algae and fish at a rate of less than 1% for most people. EPA and DHA are known for the wide-ranging benefits for heart, brain and eye health.

4.     VDR: rs1544410, rs10875712, rs4760674, rs7139166, rs4516035, rs11168287, rs7305032, rs796528

  •     Reduced Vitamin D protein receptor leading to deficiency

Analysis: Vitamin D is a nutrient more than 40% of the US population is lacking. For those with any of the eight VDR SNPs listed above, deficiency can lead to a higher risk for melanoma skin cancer as well as increased risk for cardiovascular disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

5.     FTO: rs17817449 (G;G)(G;T)

Analysis: The FTO genes tell us a lot about obesity and diabetes risk, but this particular one may determine whether high saturated fat meats and dairy should be avoided due to their unfavorable effects on glucose and insulin levels.

6.     MTRR: rs1801394, rs1802059

Analysis: These SNPs can lead to Vitamin B12 deficiency due to its poor methylation. B12 is most commonly found in animal-based foods or supplements.

7.     HLA DQ2.5: rs2187668; HLA DQ8: rs7454108

  •     Elevated risk for celiac disease

Analysis: 95% of celiac disease cases have one or both haplotypes. If you have one, consider eliminating gluten-based foods for a period of time to evaluate.

8.     DAO: rs10156191, rs1049742, rs104979

  •     Increased sensitivity to histamines

Analysis: Many people experience red facial flushing when drinking wine; a histamine intolerance is to blame for this reaction. Having this gene SNP doesn’t guarantee the individual will have issues with histamine, but it does show genetic predisposition. If you have one of these SNPs, consider limiting foods high in histamine such as wine, beer, seafoods, leftovers, chocolate, berries, or citrus food.

9.     APOA5: rs662799 (A,G) (G,G)

  •     Less weight gain on high fat diets

Analysis: This APOA5 SNP has been linked to less weight gain on higher fat diets. People with this genetic SNP could do well on a higher fat diet, such as the ketogenic diet.

10.     HFE: rs1800562, rs1799945

  •     Increased iron absorption

Analysis:  Hemochromatosis is a genetic condition that causes your body to absorb too much iron from food. Symptoms of hemochromatosis typically don’t appear until midlife but they can include cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, hypermelanotic pigmentation of the skin, and heart failure. The rs1800562 is accountable for ~85% of hemochromatosis. The rd1799945 gene SNP accounts for a more mild form of hemochromatosis. With these gene SNPs, it is important to monitor iron levels and limit consumption of red meat while avoiding high iron foods with vitamin C and beta-carotene (these enhance iron absorption).


While still evolving, nutrigenomics has a surprising amount of research and evidence-based science to consider small, dietary experiments. It’s best to use these reports to cross reference blood, microbiome and other medical diagnostic tools to help determine what foods to encourage and avoid. Consult with a physician before undergoing significant dietary changes.