Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Meeting Report

Nutrigenomics, individualism and public health

Ruth Chadwicka1 c1

a1 Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics, Lancaster University, Bailrigg, Lancaster, Lancashire LA1 4SH, UK

Abstract

Issues arising in connection with genes and nutrition policy include both nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics. Nutrigenomics considers the relationship between specifc nutrients or diet and gene expression and, it is envisaged, will facilitate prevention of diet-related common diseases. Nutrigenetics is concerned with the effects of individual genetic variation (single nucleotide polymorphisms) on response to diet, and in the longer term may lead to personalised dietary recommendations. It is important also to consider the surrounding context of other issues such as novel and functional foods in so far as they are related to genetic modification. Ethical issues fall into a number of categories: (1) why nutrigenomics? Will it have important public health benefits? (2) questions about research, e.g. concerning the acquisition of information about individual genetic variation; (3) questions about who has access to this information, and its possible misuse; (4) the applications of this information in terms of public health policy, and the negotiation of the potential tension between the interests of the individual in relation to, for example, prevention of conditions such as obesity and allergy; (5) the appropriate ethical approach to the issues, e.g. the moral difference, if any, between therapy and enhancement in relation to individualised diets; whether the 'technological fix' is always appropriate, especially in the wider context of the purported lack of public confidence in science, which has special resonance in the sphere of nutrition.

Correspondence:

c1 Corresponding author: Dr Ruth Chadwick, fax +44 1524 592503, email r.chadwick@lancaster.ac.uk