Nutrigenomics: Diet Of The Future?

FRESNO, Calif.

But is the marketing better than the actual therapy? Can you have your nutrition personalized… for a price. She played with the pros as a teen.

"I won a couple of national championships, which was awesome," Stephanie Nickitas told Ivanhoe.

Stephanie Nickitas has a rigorous routine to stay at the top of her game. But recently, her body put on the breaks.

"Issues with weight gain, lack of sleep, not feeling like I was recovering," Nickitas recalled.

When her own trips to the vitamin store didn't help, she came here to get a personalized analysis of her problem.

"Due to the advanced testing, we're able to look at people at a cellular level," Russ Scala with the Institute of Nutritional Medicine and Cardiovascular Research in Orlando explained.

"A lot of folks just swallow pills arbitrarily and really don't know how much they need. Well, now we're able to dial that in and tell you how much you need of a vitamin B6, for example, down to the milligram."

Stephanie had a genetic profile done. Then, pharmacists created a concoction designed to fill what she was missing: 2,000 milligrams of vitamin c, 500 milligrams of vitamin b, 20 milligrams of niacin, 8,000 milligrams of folic acid, 4,000 milligrams of glycine to ease stress, and 500 milligrams of arginine -- to improve immune and hormone function. It also told her to eat a diet rich in probiotics. The entire process can cost up to $5,000 dollars.

"We're noting a deficiency of a specific vitamin or mineral, and that's what we're giving them back, Practice biology before pharmacology. Test, don't guess. Education before medication," Sam Pratt explained.

Some researchers say buyers beware.

"That's a very attractive kind of marketing approach, but again I would say, 'Show me the data,'" Philip Wood, DV.M., Ph.D., professor at the Sanford Burnham Institute in Orlando, FL said.

Geneticist Doctor Philip wood says this type of personalized nutrition has potential, but he doesn't believe it's ready for primetime. "I would expect they have absolutely no idea what those compounds are that were tested," Wood said. "And they really have no idea what the implications of the data are."

"The caveat is that these aren't, these may be overhyped before their time, and so consumers need to be aware of what they are getting into," Daniel Weeks, Ph.D., at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, explained.

Studies are emerging, however, that show the promise of nutrigenomics -- the science of how your genes interact with food. At Stanford University, researchers assigned 138 overweight and obese women to either a low-fat or low-carb diet, depending on their genes. Those assigned the right diet for their genotype lost five-times as much weight. Still, Doctor Wood says, right now, nutrigenomics is an expensive approach lacking proof.

"It isn't quite the slam dunk that a lot of people would like," Wood said. But Nickitas is sold. After taking the specialized supplement and tweaking her training, she lost seven pounds of body fat.

"You do feel a boost of energy with them," Nickitas recalled. "When you take them, but also, it's more sustained throughout the day." An athlete who says it's worth the cost not to play a guessing game with her nutrition.

In a recent study on nutrigenomics, Kansas state researchers found going to a genetic counselor or doctor who would customize your diet according to your genes is five to 10 years away. However, they say specific foods for an individual may one day battle cancer, type-two diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and obesity.

Sherri Hubbard
The Institute of Nutritional Medicine and Cardiovascular Research
Orlando, FL
(407) 571-2777

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