Human nutrition and food research- opportunities and challenges in the post-genomic era

Human nutrition and food research- opportunities and challenges in the post-genomic era

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Received 29 January 2003 Accepted 21 July 2003 Published online 9 September 2003 Human nutrition and food research: opportunities and challenges in the post-genomic era Susan J. Fairweather-Tait Nutrition Division, Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7UA, UK ( sue.fairweather-tait@bbsrc.ac.uk ) Sequencing of the human genome has opened the door to the most exciting new era for nutritional science. It is now possible to study the underlying mechanisms for diet–health relationships, and in the near future dietary advice (and possibly tailored food products) for promoting optimal health could be provided on an individual basis, in relation to genotype and lifestyle. The role of food in human evolution is briefly reviewed, from palaeolithic times to modern-day hunter–gatherer societies. The aetiology of ‘diseases of modern civilization’, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and the effect of changes in dietary patterns are discussed. The risk of disease is often associated with common single nucleotide polymor- phisms, but the effect is dependent on dietary intake and nutritional status, and is often more apparent in intervention studies employing a metabolic challenge. To understand the link between diet and health, nutritional research must cover a broad range of areas, from molecular to whole body studies, and is an excellent example of integrative biology, requiring a systems biology approach. The annual cost to the National Health Service of diet-related diseases is estimated to be in excess of £15 billion, and although diet is a key component of any preventative strategy, it is not given the prominence it deserves. For example, less than 1% of the £1.6 billion budget for coronary heart disease is spent on prevention. The polygenic and multifactorial nature of chronic diseases requires substantial resources but the potential rewards, in terms of quality of life and economics, are enormous. It is timely therefore to consider investing in a long-term coordinated national programme for nutrition research, combining nutritional genomics with established approaches, to improve the health of individuals and of the nation. Keywords: human nutrition; food; research; diet; chronic disease; nutritional genomics If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research… . (Albert Einstein 1879–1955) 1. INTRODUCTION The twenty-first century marks the beginning of an excit- ing new era for nutrition research. Scientists are able to develop and exploit post-genomic techniques to deliver previously unimaginable data on nutrient requirements of individuals and long-awaited information on the relation- ship between diet and health (Sunde 2001). The ultimate goal of human nutrition research is to improve the quality of life of individuals by minimizing morbidity and maxim- izing longevity. This apparently simple aspiration requires a multidisciplinary approach, the use of systems biology, and an appreciation of the overriding influence of political
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This note was uploaded on 01/06/2010 for the course NS 1150 taught by Professor Levitsky during the Fall '05 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Human nutrition and food research- opportunities and challenges in the post-genomic era

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