The Phenotype of an Appetite
Some people enjoy eating hot, spicy dishes while others prefer foods with mild, almost bland flavors. Similarly, some individuals can consume dairy products with nary an issue while others experience hours of gas, bloating, and other discomfort from a glass of milk. A person’s food preferences are usually thought of as the result of cultural upbringing as well as eating habits. But whether someone can properly digest lactose in dairy products or whether a person experiences progressive weight gain while following U.S. dietary guidelines are factors of the expression of one’s genes. Human genetics not only determine height, hair color, and eye color; they also determine dietary preferences and how the body absorbs and utilizes nutrients. Because genes are expressed in numerous ways, a one-size approach to diet and nutrition is ultimately ineffective for many consumers.
During the session “Incorporating Food, Nutrition, and Health Informatics Resources in the Food Design and Engineering Process” on Tuesday morning, June 26, speakers discussed how taking a more personalized approach to diet and nutrition may be the best way to address food sensitivities, obesity, and malnutrition. Daniela Barile, University of California-Davis, said that pharmaceutical solutions to these issues have not been that successful, so personalized diets may be a more effective approach. Food development needs to evolve to personalization so that it is more effective for every consumer.
Every person has his or her own set of genes, which makes everyone’s dietary needs unique. Consumers therefore respond differently to food and nutrients. The current model of food and nutrient delivery is as follows: agriculture→food→health→fitness. Matthew Lange, University of California-Davis, said that scientists need to reverse this sequence to create a knowledge-based food system that utilizes consumers’ phenotype and fitness to determine how they will respond to food and nutrients. As researchers devote more attention to gene expression, consumers can look forward to using genes to determine the best way to fit into jeans—and achieve optimal health.