Nutrigenomics: An Emerging Scientific Discipline The identification and understanding of individual and population.

Differences and similarities in gene expression in response to diet can lead to food products customized for an individual’s nutritional needs.

Effects of the Human Genome Project are surfacing in anticipated and unanticipated areas. One of the key discoveries from the project is the existence of individual differences in gene sequences that result in differential response to environmental factors, such as diet. Those genetic differences, single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, pronounced snips), are the key genetic enabler of the emerging scientific discipline called nutrigenomics or nutritional genomics. In the broad arena of health and wellness, one of the major impacts on the food industry, throughout the value chain from agricultural crops through consumer products, is this emerging understanding of human nutrition at the molecular level of gene expression.

The science of nutrigenomics is the study of how naturally occurring chemicals in foods alter molecular expression of genetic information in each individual. In addition to bioinformatics, three scientific methodological approaches underpin nutrigenomics. Those methodological approaches are based on nutrition, molecular biology, and genomics. Integration of these disciplines is leading to identification and understanding of individual and population differences and similarities in gene expression, or phenotype, in response to diet (Fig. 1). The implications for the food industry range from market opportunities for customized or nutrient- enhanced crops

GLA oils; A study on consumer

Purchasing behaviors are studied with the continuing interest in essential fatty acids and nutritional oils, demand for GLA continues to grow. Evening primrose and borage oil, with GLA levels of 10% and 20% respectively, have long been popular dietary supplements, and Arcadia Biosciences is developing safflower oil containing gammalinolenic acid (GLA) at levels in excess of 35%. The retail market for GLA oil sold primarily in the form of softgel dietary supplement capsules, is believed to exceed $100 million. There are numerous brands of EPO and borage oil capsules on the market. While some brands carry both types of oils, others sell only one or the other.

Under normal conditions, GLA is synthesized in vivo from dietary linoleic acid. However, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that ageing, stress, poor diet and multiple disease conditions interfere with GLA formation, reducing accumulation of GLA and its desirable metabolites such as dihomogamma-linolenic acid (DGLA). In such instances, GLA may be considered to be an essential dietary fatty acid and dietary supplementation may provide significant health benefits.

Given the anti-inflammatory effects of GLA, it may potentially mediate numerous health and disease states, including PMS, arthritis, skin health, diabetes and cardiovascular health. Unless specifically supplemented, the typical western diet is essentially devoid of GLA. The most concentrated sources of GLA are not traditional foods, but rather non traditional oils from plant seeds and microorganisms. Plant seed oil sources include borage (Borago officinalis), evening primrose (Oenothera biennis) and lackcurrant (Ribes nigrum); GLA-producing microorganisms include cyanobacteria (Spirulina maxima and S. platensis) and fungi (Mucor javanicus and Mortierella isabellina). Other known sources of GLA are in development.

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