The experience had such a profound effect on me I wasn't satisfied without attempting to find answers for myself. And then I had a fortunate happenstance ... the acceptance of my invitation to connect via Linkedin to Ron Martin, Founder
and President of Nutrigenetics Unlimited, Inc. whose academic background includes BS/MS degrees in Food Science and Nutrition from Chapman University, in Orange, California. He has worked for more than 35 years in nutrition and food related industries in California, including Plus Products (Irvine), the Wm. T. Thompson Co. (Carson), and for the Nutrilite Division of Alticor (Buena Park) where he served as Senior Research Scientist in Nutrilite's R&D New Concepts Group. Ron is also one of many founding members of the Institute of Nutrigenetics/Nutrigenomics (ISNN).
I asked him if he could impart his knowledge and expertise to understand the relationship between nutrition and genetics and he agreed to be interviewed.
Sofia: Ron, what is the relationship between genetics and nutrition?
Ron: Our genes control all of the proteins that our bodies make -- including enzymes and hormones. In many ways, nutrition is one of the most profound of all variables affecting our health, because we ingest relatively large quantities of foods -- and, it's something that no one can avoid for long. We may be able to minimise our exposures to pollution, or to drugs, or even to
severe stress, but we cannot avoid nutrition for any length of time.
Sofia: How can individual genetic differences affect the way we respond to nutrients?
Ron: Because our bodily enzymes, hormones and proteins are under genetic control, any variations in our genes can affect the efficiency with which our biochemical reactions occur. Some genetic variations can slow down or otherwise impair normal biochemistry and metabolism; on the other hand, some variations might make a given process unusually
efficient. Either of these types of variations can affect what is "optimal" for our own bodies, as individuals.
For example, some people have a higher-than-average genetic risk of developing dementia/Alzheimer's disease, but this does not mean they’re destined to develop it. But factors such as physical inactivity, alcohol drinking, smoking, higher intake of saturated fats, and lower intake of polyunsaturated fats have been reported to further increase the risk of developing this memory-robbing disorder. Thus, dietary and lifestyle choices can help offset and reduce the risk, while new research continues to emerge.
Sofia: When did you become convinced that differences in genes influences the body's response to diet and nutrition?
Ron: When I first started my professional career, I worked in product development/R&D for a large dietary supplement company, and I wanted to know the truth about whether supplements are really beneficial – or not.
When I started collecting scientific articles about this, I discovered that some people respond to clinical trials with supplements very favourably, while others do not respond, or respond in unexpected ways.
Then, in 2002 and 2003, I attended the first, and then the second international conferences on nutrition and genetics (nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics) that were organized in the Netherlands by NuGO (an Association of Universities and Research Institutes focusing on the joint development of the research area of molecular nutrition, personalised nutrition, nutrigenomics and nutritional systems biology). After attending those conferences, I became convinced that genetic
variations help explain many of the inconsistencies found in earlier studies.
Sofia: Is this the reason why you established your company Nutrigenetics, to promote awareness on genetics and health?
Ron: Yes, I created the online database Nutrigenetics.net in 2007, which is a subset of the U.S. National Library of Medicine database (PubMed.gov), with articles relevant to genetics and health. My company further indexes these articles with standardized terminology (controlled vocabulary), including for genes and gene variants.
Sofia: What is your company's mission?
Ron: Health and well-being depend not only on our genetics, but also on how our genetics interact with our environment including, but not limited to nutrition. Because of the twin challenges of information overload and inconsistent terminology, our purpose is to facilitate awareness of, and access to, the numerous reports on genetics and health, with emphasis on the interplay between genetics and our environment. Our hope is to engage the Public, and to equip both the Public and Professionals to dialogue together to form partnerships which will result in the appropriate application of this important new field of science. This includes gene-environment interactions of all types (e.g., pharmacogenetics, epigenetics, nutrigenetics, nutrigenomics,
gene expression, and more).
Sofia: So not only Health Care Professionals and Researchers can access your database, but can the public as well?
Ron: Yes, articles of interest to the Public are identified and made accessible for easy browsing. After logging in, users can return to one of the homepage links like http://nutrigenetics.net/Home/ThePublic.aspx to browse hundreds of interesting article titles (instead of being limited to viewing only seven). Each title serves as a link to the corresponding PubMed record.
Access to this database is free for everyone on weekends (Central U.S. time) when logging in with Free as the username, and Weekends as the password, as also shown on the login page at https://Nutrigenetics.net/Login.aspx
The great thing about our database is that it makes the evidence-based research much more accessible, so that members of the public can work together with their health practitioners to make the best possible choices, based on their own individual circumstances.
So, there you go. To those of you interested to learn more on how nutrition, environment and genetics impact on health, visit www.nutrigenetics.net