Who’s putting the genes in genealogy in Sacramento? It’s UC Davis and its link with the Northern California-based Ethnic Health Institute. You’ve probably seen the fourth episode of Faces of America, where Louis Gates and his dad had their entire genome sequenced.
There’s only about 50 people in the USA that have had their entire genome sequenced, according to the fourth episode of Faces of America. A great place for anthropology and family history enthusiasts is in bringing together ethnography, genetics, and genealogy. The catalyst is the genealogist’s genogram, a medical history related to generations of family history information put into a database, archive, or time capsule.
What an entire genome test can tell you is a lot about your ancestry as well as your predicted health risks. But for ancestry, the DNA scanned is far less than the entire genome, and can tell you about family links in deep ancestry. Newer tests such as Family Finder, report that they can help you find matches with ancestry going about about five generations.
Interestingly, genealogy is branching out with medical history genograms into the field of nutrigenomics, that is the study of how you can tailor foods to your genetic expression. The reason a genealogist might want to look at nutrigenomics in one of the online courses sometimes offered now and then through various online extended studies programs or workshops from different universities, is that it’s more information to share with relatives and put into a time capsule for future generations.
Why would a genealogist take an interest in tailoring food to genetic expression? The answer is because it helps create a genogram, which is a family medical history that goes back several generations, like a genealogy pedigree chart.
Basically, the more information you share with family in your keepsake album, time capsule, or digital scrapbook, the more future generations can tailor what they eat, lifestyles, and genetic history as part of genealogy and family history. It also makes for important information that will be valued, and can go into the annual family newsletter or shared at family reunions. So what research is being done in this new field that genealogists can be aware of and share alongside the microfiche, computer, and paper trail searches?
UC Davis, in the Sacramento area is a leader in research in the field of nutrigenomics, that is tailoring your foods to your genetic signature. Did you know that your ethnic group is related to what your ideal diet should be if it is to be tailored to your genetic expression? Check out the website of the Ethnic Health Institute. It’s link appears on a UC Davis website, even though it’s a community service of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, CA, a Sutter health affiliate, linked to Sutter Health in Sacramento.
Numerous universities offer online extension courses in nutrigenomics to anyone wishing to learn the fundamentals. For example, UC Davis in the Sacramento regional area in the past offered an extension course online open to anyone in nutrigenomics. In 2006, workshops at UC Davis showed how personalized nutrition works and how nutrition can be tailored to gene expression and to your ethnicity.
At UC Davis, the Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics has been in existence for over half a decade. Scientists associated with the Center have initiated collaborative projects in prostate cancer, asthma, obesity, and diabetes to complement their primary research projects. These projects are described in the research section of this site.
Check out these food calculators from the UC Davis, NCMHD Center for Excellence in Nutritional Genomics site
BMI – or Body Mass Index is a relationship between weight and height associated with body fat. A BMI over 25 kg/m2 is considered overweight and 30 or over is considered obese. Although these estimates are too simplistic (since muscle mass weighs more than fat, etc) many studies show that BMI’s over 25 are associated with increased risk of chronic diseases. There is also a disease risk for individuals below ~18 kg/m2.
A calorie is the quantity of heat required to raise 1 gram of water by 1°C from 14.5°C at 1 atmosphere. A food calorie is 1000 calories. Calorie is also defined as the amount of heat contained in food and released upon oxidation by the body. The food calorie calculator will allow you to quickly determine how many calories are present in your favorite foods.
Knowing the amount of calories in foods is a challenge since different recipes have different amounts of macro- (fat, carbohydrate, protein) and micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals). The Food Nutrition Database Calorie Counter calculator provides detail nutrition information for a large variety of foods.
With our busy lifestyles, fast foods have become a frequent component in the diets of some of us. Did you know that there are 530 calories (!) in a 24 oz. Carmel Frappucino blended coffee? Knowing how many calories are in our favorite fast foods is the first step toward successful management of our weight and long-term health. Calculate your calorie intake at the common fast food restaurants with the Fast Food Calculator.
The amount of calories for each gender and various lifestyles can also be estimated. A calculator that takes account of body type (frame size) and activity level is on a dietitic- focused website.
The Center of Excellence in Nutritional Genomics’ workshop was entitled Nutrigenomics: Discovering the Path to Personalized Nutrition, and had received attention worldwide. Since a number of individuals have requested the information, material, or attendance at upcoming workshops, UC Davis developed an online course of the same name in conjunction with the UC Davis Extension. The course was offered back in 2006. But studies in nutrigenomics are ongoing at UC Davis. There are other universities offering online studies on this topic.
The public also can group together and ask for an extension studies course to be offered again. If enough students are interested and sign a request for a course to be offered through extended studies, perhaps UC Davis or one of the other local colleges might offer an online course or workshop in nutrigenomics.
One of the great challenges in genetics and nutrition is to understand how each individual interacts with, and responds to their environment, according to the UC Davis website. Diet is the most important environmental factor influencing expression of genetic information because of the constant exposure to nutrients in foods.
The emerging discipline of nutritional genomics, or nutrigenomics is the study of the effects of diet on the activity of an individual’s genes and health and the study of how different genetic makeups metabolize nutrients. Few if any have been trained in the many disciplines used in this research and its potential applications.
This course provided the fundamental concepts of technologies and strategies for conducting and understanding nutritional genomic research. It was divided into nine sections: overview; DNA; RNA; proteomics and detection systems; bioinformatics; genetics; SNPs; model systems; and ethics.Let’s have more courses like this one in Sacramento or online, perhaps as continuing adult education, or extended studies courses for people in the nutrition field from researchers to journalists, from holistic health practitioners to chefs, and from dietitians to genetic counselors.
The online courses in nutrigenomics and the workshops are meant to be the foundation for other courses that focus on aspects of nutritional genomics concepts and techniques. One could envision whole-day workshops on any of the sections presented in this course. If you want to find out more courses offered online on nutrigenomics open to the public, check out the nutrigenomics listserve for overviews needed for specialized workshops. Check out, the Nutritional Genomics: Nutrigenomics Alerts.
Interest in nutrigenomics has exploded since about 2000, generating a large amount of scientific, government reports, and public media articles related to nutrigenomics, according to the website of the Nutrigenomics Listserve. Understanding the complex interactions among diet and genetic makeup requires an understanding of the concepts and technologies of many scientific, social, and ethical disciplines.
The Center of Excellence in Nutritional Genomics initiated a listserve in July 2002 to alert interested readers in nutrigenomics or topics related to the field. It was designed for a relatively small group (~100) of scientists to exchange comments by email about experiments and results. The center soon discovered that many scientists and individuals in lay public signed up for the emails. That means this information is open to the general public–the consumer, and nutrition journalists seeking knowledge of what the latest studies show.
Online courses in nutrigenomics may be offered through various universities’ extended studies programs and may be open to anyone. Generally online courses most often are geared to professional nutritionists, molecular biologists, food scientists, geneticists, primary physicians, dietitians, and other health care workers in academia, industry, business and finance. But if the general consumer takes an online course, it may be of use to motivate the individual to take more interest in tailoring foods to personal requirements.
Check out sites such as the Center of Excellence in Nutritional Genomics, and the UC Davis Program in International Nutrition. Also look for online extended studies course offerings and worships linked to information at the website of the Science and Agriculture Section of the UC Davis Extension. Sometimes scholarships are offered.
Why would genealogists be concerned about public health and diets tailored to ethnic groups?
Genealogists often wonder with all the ethnic admixtures, why would geneticists and genealogists have close relationships regarding new information about how different ethnic groups react genetically to different diets. It’s all part of the individual genogram, and it puts the genes in genealogy, so to speak.
According to a March 5, 2010 press release from Kansas State University located in Manhattan, Kansas, researchers say that the new field of nutrigenomics is likely to change the future of public health. Recent studies on nutrients and gene expression could lead to tailored diets for better disease prevention. Personal health recommendations and diets tailored to better prevent diseases may be in our future, just by focusing on genetics.
Researchers at Kansas State University recently published an academic journal article discussing the potential for nutrigenomics, a field that studies the effects of food on gene expression. The researchers discussed the possibility of using food to prevent an individual’s genes from expressing disease. The researchers said nutrigenomics could completely change the future of public health and the food and culinary industries.
“Nutrigenomics involves tailoring diets to someone’s genetic makeup,” said Koushik Adhikari, K-State assistant professor of sensory analysis. “I speculate that in five to 10 years, you would go to a genetic counselor or a physician who could help you understand your genetic makeup, and then a nutritional professional could customize your diet accordingly.”
Adhikari collaborated with Denis Medeiros, professor and department head of human nutrition, and Jean Getz, former K-State graduate student in human nutrition, for an article on nutrigenomics that was published in the January issue of Food Technology. Getz, now a student at the School of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University, wrote the article while at K-State.
Nutrigenomics is a fast-moving field of research that combines molecular biology, genetics and nutrition to regulate gene expression through specific nutrients. Nutrients have been shown to affect gene expression through transcription factors, which are biochemical entities that bind to DNA and either promote or inhibit transcription of genes. By understanding the roles of specific nutrients and how they might cause diseases, scientists could recommend specific foods for an individual based on his or her genetics.
“Scientists are looking at the molecular mechanisms in the body,” Adhikari said. “At the molecular level, you can look at what specific nutrients can do to your body that would trigger genes to act properly, in a healthy way.”
Medeiros said K-State researchers in human nutrition are doing these kinds of studies. Some are studying the impact plant chemicals have on different types of cancers in terms of their potential prevention effects. Other researchers are looking at how wolfberry, a Chinese fruit, could be used to improve vision.
“These studies not only answer whether the concerned nutrients prevent a disease, but also how they exert their health benefits,” Medeiros said.
Current health recommendations for people in the United States are general for the overall population. However, with nutrigenomics research, health recommendations could be better modified to individuals.
“That is where I think the main focus of nutrigenomics is going to be in the future,” Adhikari said. “It could tell you that you have the propensity for certain chronic diseases so that you could modify your diet accordingly. With a better understanding of how nutrients alter gene expression, there is a potential that food could be used instead of medication to combat problems like high cholesterol.”
Adhikari said this kind of personalized health care is in the near future since the human genome has been mapped. Now scientists are focusing on identifying single-nucleotide polymorphisms, which are a small change in a person’s DNA sequence like sensitivity to bitterness.
Polymorphisms could determine if a person has a propensity for different chronic diseases. At K-State, Adhikari and Mark Haub, associate professor of human nutrition, are leading a study of the genotypes of diabetic and non-diabetic individuals to determine if there is a link between the risk for type-2 diabetes and bitter-taste sensitivity.
Nutrigenomics would require a collaborative effort from people in genetics and the industries of public health, food science and culinary. Adhikari said more options should be available so that consumers can make the healthiest choice. He said the food industry should collaborate with the culinary industry to create more healthful and appealing foods.
“This is one of the major issues with the food industry,” he said. “It’s very easy to make good-tasting food. Put some lard or butter in it, and it’s going to taste good. The challenge is how to take the fat out and create healthful but also good-tasting food.”
Consumer education also will be an important factor for the future of nutrigenomics and public health. Adhikari said consumers are often skeptical of genetically modified foods, where scientists modify a food’s DNA by splicing and adding genes. However, this practice is different from nutrigenomics, which focuses on using foods’ natural components to promote better health.
The researchers said a shift in public health is greatly needed, and with an increasing incidence of obesity and chronic diseases such as types 2 diabetes, nutrigenomics might prove to be the panacea in the future.