The E-News site has been inactive since February 2011 and may contain outdated information and/or broken links. For current and up-to-date Tufts news and information, please visit Tufts Now at
Tufts University e-news

Search  GO >

this site people
Tufts University Logo Bottom Search Bottom  
left side photo

Feeding Your Genes

Feeding Your GenesCutting-edge research at Tufts into the relationship between certain foods and a person’s genes may lead to some new approaches for fighting disease. Boston.

Boston [03.04.03] Fifty years after scientists first unlocked the code of DNA, researchers are pioneering new methods to shape the way our genes affect our health. Food, according to Tufts' world-renowned scientist Dr. Jose Ordovas, may play an increasingly important role in fighting disease as scientists learn how genetics and diet impact each other.

"What we are learning is to feed properly our genes as individuals," Ordovas told CBS Sunday Morning. "Each one of us needs different fuels."

Different nutrients, say the Tufts scientists, will affect people differently.

"We are finding more and more that what you take-in in your diet does have an impact on the integrity of your genetic material," Tufts' Joel Mason told CBS.

Ordovas and Mason are part of a unique team of scientists at Tufts' Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

"The lab at Tufts specializes in what's called nutrigenomics, the study of how food impacts genes," reported CBS. "We have long known that genes can cause disease. What's new is that we may be able to change the way our genes behave, depending on what we eat."

From colon cancer to high cholesterol, the Tufts experts are exploring a broad range of diseases that may be influenced by the intersection of food and genetics.

"What Dr. Jose Ordovas [the chief of Tufts' Nutrition and Genomics laboratory] is learning will surprise you," reported CBS. "He's found, for example, that genes not only determine who is most at risk for heart disease, they also dictate who will be helped or harmed by a low-fat diet."

Genes, he says, play a critical role in shaping individual responses to specific nutrients or diets.

"The low fat idea is not for everyone," Ordovas -- a professor at Tufts' Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy -- told CBS. "For some people, it will not matter if they eat more or less fat, and in some cases, it could even be negative."

Tufts' Dr. Mason found similar results in his studies of the impact of the nutrient folate on colon cancer.

"Some people, based on their genetic background, might require more folate than others in order to optimize their prevention against developing colon cancer," Mason told CBS. "[If certain individuals consume extra folate] they might more effectively reduce their risk of developing cancer."

Their findings may have important implications for medicine.

"One day, the most advanced form of preventative medicine could be a prescription diet," reported CBS. "The doctor will test your DNA, learn if you're at risk for cancer, heart attack or other diseases, and prescribe you food."


Related Stories
Related Links
Featured Profile