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Nutrition, Immunity, and Your Genes

Researchers are just now beginning to understand how genes affect nutrition and overall immunity. It turns out that the overall risk of contracting many diseases is influenced by genetics (Mathew 2001). A new field of nutritional genomics explores the interaction of nutrition, genes, and environmental factors (including diet) (Kaput 2004).

This emerging field of science evolved from the Human Genome Project, which mapped the human genome and identified many genes that cause disease.

The association between diet and chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, and cancer is well known (Jenkins 1997; Jenkins 1999; Jenkins 2000; Kaput 2004). Nutrients supplied by food are an important variable in gene expression. Deficiency of some essential nutrients can alter metabolism and the structure of DNA (Kaput 2004). A well-studied example of the relationship between genetics and diet is type 2 diabetes. This condition is associated with a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, and ethnicity. Although some individuals are genetically predisposed to this condition, many can control symptoms through exercise and a change in diet (Kaput 2004).

In the future, genetic testing might be able to help in the creation of nutritional programs tailored to each individual's genetic makeup; thus, may help people fight disease and stay healthy.