Tailoring your diet, exercise and lifestyle according to your DNA may sound like something out of a science fiction movie but for many, this method has proved to be very effective.
Nutrigenomics is the study of how food affects your gene expression. Gene expression is the process where the heritable information in our genes is turned into proteins. Your genes also affect how your body absorbs and metabolises nutrients. Urban Health speaks to President of the Malaysian Wellness Society and The Beacon Laureate’s Dato’ Dr. Rajbans Singh who shares expert insights and information about nutrigenomics
Urban Health: What is nutrigenomics?
Dato’ Dr. Rajbans Singh: Simply put, it is how your food ‘talks’ to your genes. During human genome-mapping, the variants of genes were mapped out and studied. Scientists found that certain foods ‘turned on’ certain genes.
UH: What do you mean by ‘turned on’ genes? Can genes be ‘turned off’?
DDRS: Our DNA cannot change but it can be suppressed or ‘turned off’ in a sense. For example, let’s say we obtain a DNA sample from you and we find that you have the gene that causes obesity. We will then explain how you can suppress that gene with specific diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.
Here’s another example: inflammation can lead to various health problems so decreasing inflammation is always a good thing. If we find, from your DNA sample, that you are highly susceptible to inflammation because of certain genes, we’ll talk to you about ways to reduce inflammation by suggesting diet changes and intake of supplements such as omega-3.
UH: Why haven’t we heard of nutrigenomics before?
DDRS: It is a fairly new concept. Nutrigenomics is an effective and powerful way to prevent chronic diseases. In Malaysia, we’re more focused on screening and early detection when it comes to staying healthy. We usually go to the doctor when we need a medical check-up or when we’re already sick. As far as I know, there’s no precise or personalised gene-based method to prevent chronic diseases, besides the program at The Laureate.
UH: How exactly do you ‘look’ at a person’s DNA and find these genes that may or may not cause chronic diseases?
DDRS: We will obtain an inner cheek sample with a cotton swab and send it off to our lab in Australia. About three to four weeks later, the full report with the patient’s DNA profile will be sent to me and an appointment to meet the patient will be scheduled. I will then sit down with my patient and explain their DNA profile to them. The profile will focus on genes that influence immunity and inflammation, cellular defence and detoxification by the liver, cardiovascular health, fat metabolism and cholesterol regulation and vitamin D metabolism.
After that, the patient will meet with a Nutrigenomic Practitioner who is an expert on nutrition and dietetics. A detailed diet plan will be created based on the patient’s profile with nutrients that should be added into the daily diet and nutrients to stay away from in order to ‘turn off’ the genes that cause chronic diseases. Patients will also be advised on the kind of supplements they should take and the dosage as well.
UH: What are the other ways nutrigenomics can be applied?
DDRS: Well, some people like to use it as an ‘anti-ageing’ method. Its application doesn’t mean you’ll stop ageing but by living a healthier life, you’ll logically, live longer.
For more information about how your genes influence your health, call The Laureate at 03-7787 2888 or check out their website (www.thelaureate.com.my).
Dato’ Dr. Rajbans Singh says:
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast for 29 to 30 days and many people eat the wrong foods and feel unwell afterwards. Some even put on a huge amount of weight. For sahur –the meal which is eaten before dawn- aim to consume complex carbohydrates such as oats which will provide you with enough slow-release energy during the day and help keep you full for longer. Between sunset and dawn, remember to drink around 2 litres of water to ensure that you won’t become dehydrated by the end of the day.
For iftar, -the evening meal that is eaten to break the daily fast at sunset- start with some dates or fruits and then wait 15 to 20 minutes before continuing with dinner to prevent overeating. Remember not to eat too much carbohydrate (rice, noodles, bread) all at once. To avoid becoming too hungry during the night, reduce your intake of sugary cakes and fried foods which are low in important nutrients