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Jeans Feeling Tight? Check Your Genes

Jeans Feeling Tight? Check Your GenesTuftsnutritionist Jose Ordovas is at the leading edge of the emergingfield of nutritional genomics, which explores the connectionsbetween genetics, diet and health.Boston

Boston [03.17.05] What does DNA have to do with dinner? More than youmay think, according to recent research. Tufts nutrition expertDr.Jose Ordovas, director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratoryat the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging,is a leader in the study of nutritional genomics, examining howdiet and genes are connected.

"Peopleare going from one diet to another. It's a matter of trial anderror. We believe that each one of us is geared to respond bestto a specific diet, whether it is Mediterranean or Atkins or lowfat," Ordovas told The Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.).

Helping peoplediscover which diet best suits their genetic disposition couldhelp stem the tide of fad diets, Ordovas suggested to Newsweek.

Applicationsrange from genetically customized diet counseling to simply gaininga better understanding of one's individual nutrition needs.

Ordovas toldThe Wall Street Journal that the field of nutritionalgenomics, or nutrigenomics, is in the same state that cholesterolresearch was in some three decades ago. While scientists saw aconnection between high cholesterol and heart disease, wide-scalehuman testing was needed to show that anti-cholesterol drugs couldbe effective.

But Ordovastold the Journal that he wanted to be wary of prematurecommercialization of nutrigenomics. While promising, it is stilla young science. Ordovas hopes to collaborate with fellow researchersaround the world to unlock the mystery of the connection betweengenetics and diet, the Journal reported.

"We knowabout certain [genetic] switches and how to turn them on and off.But in some people, you turn the switch but the light doesn'tcome on, because there are other switches upstream and downstreamthat we don't know about yet," Ordovas explained in a Newsweekcover story.

The way inwhich genes and food interact is already evident when observinghow people of certain ethnicities react to changes in their diets.

"When[Asians] move from their traditional environment to the West,they immediately get into trouble with obesity and heart disease– more than Caucasians," Ordovas told Newsweek.Asians appear to be particularly susceptible to the negative effectsof eating foods high in saturated fats, research indicates.

Relatedly,Ordovas is also pursuing research in the nascent field of metabonomics,which explores the effect of genes on metabolic processes in thebody. But it is a complex area of study.
"Gene sequencing is so easy" compared to dealing withthe human metabolism, Ordovas told Scientific American."In metabonomics you have different [technological] platformsthat measure things in different ways. We are talking about thousandsof components."

Ordovas toldScientific American he hopes that scientists will one day be ableto map the human metabolism like the human genome – a projectthat would require significant resources, but would put Ordovasand his fellow researchers closer to fully understanding the connectionsbetween genetics, diet and health.












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