Adaption of the Human Genome to Dietary Changes
Nutrition is essential for life, but the effects of nutritional molecules are complex and influenced by many factors. Genes influence the dietary response, while nutrients, or the lack of them, can affect gene expression. More than 90 % of human genes have not changed since the life in the stone ages, where food availability meant survival. Humans evolved a sense for taste, in order to detect the most energy-rich diet, but this initial survival instinct nowadays causes overweight and obesity. Modern nutrition research has taken up many elements from molecular biology and next-generation sequencing technologies and turned into nutrigenomics. This new discipline attempts to understand the effects of food on multiple molecular levels, such as genomics and epigenomics.
In this chapter, we will start with a definition of nutrigenomics and will provide a few examples of its applications and potential. We will discuss the molecular basis for the recent adaption of the human genome to environmental changes, such as less UV-B exposure after migrating north, and dietary challenges due to dairy farming, such as lactose tolerance. We will demonstrate that the majority of disease-associated genetic variants are located outside of protein-coding regions, for example, within transcription factor binding sites. This means that regulatory SNPs are rather the rule than the exception. Nutrigenomics will be understood as the application of various “omics” technologies for investigations on the level of the epigenome, genome, transcriptome, proteome and metabolome. We will experience that nowadays it is possible to apply these methods for a most comprehensive assessment of a human individual, which is summarized as integrative personal omics profile (iPOP). These individual datasets will be the basis for the optimization of personalized nutrition for preserving health via the prevention of disease, such as T2D and CVD.