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National Center of Excellence in Nutritional Genomics Investigates the Link between Diet and Illness

Nutitional Genomics 101

Suppose that diet as a risk factor for disease is exacerbated by individual genetic variation and that dietary intervention based upon knowledge of nutritional status, nutritional requirements, and genotype (“intelligent nutrition”) can decrease the risk of chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Based on this hypothesis, nutritional genomics, or nutrigenomics, studies how different foods interact with particular genes to affect the balance between health and illness. According to Bertram Lubin, MD, director of medical research at CHORI and deputy director of the center, “Understanding this interaction is necessary, but not sufficient to address health disparities observed in minority populations and the poor.

“The (center’s) designation demonstrates, on a national level, our commitment to minority health. But most importantly, it can be a vehicle for social change in a way that will improve the overall well-being of our community. It is a privilege to be in a position to have such an impact,” Dr. Lubin states.

“You can have the best genes in the world, but if you don’t have access to what you need to keep yourself healthy, regardless of your genetic make-up, you’re in trouble,” notes Barbara Staggers, MD, director of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital & Research Center at Oakland and director of the training and
outreach cores of the new center. “So the ultimate goal is to look not just at genetics, but also at how the environment—social, political, economical—impacts people’s health.”

This multifaceted approach to achieving and maintaining optimum health in all people is reflected in the organization of the National Center of Excellence in Nutritional Genomics. Four research cores are complemented by cores in outreach, education and training. The Center will also establish a state-of-the-art genomics/proteomic shared research core at CHORI and the first nutrigenomics database in the bioinformatics shared resource core at UCD. In addition, it will fund pilot projects for new research deciphering the nutritional and genetics contributions to disease incidence, severity, and mortality in minority populations.

<Nutrition Under the Microscope>

Monday, May 16, 2011 11:33 PM

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