Honestly, I know a lot of people think I make my living by telling people to eat more broccoli and oily fish – and they know that already so they think they don’t need any help.
Well, to quote the wonderful Ben Goldacre, “I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that”.
I’ve spent the last couple of months with my head in the Cloud in an attempt to pin down some of the many, specific ways that diet and genes interact to change our risk for breast cancer and other diseases. I’ve learned a lot.
So, for example, you already know (because I wrote about it here) that it’s important to keep your omega 6 and 3 fats in balance to protect yourself from runaway inflammation. That’s where the oily fish referred to above comes in handy.
But some people have gene variations which make it super important to watch those fats. For example, if you have a particular version of the FADS1 gene, your body is programmed to make extra omega 6, so it will be much harder to maintain the crucial balance. This can predispose towards diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular and cancer.
In fact, the sum of your gene variations – or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) as they are properly called – and you probably have hundreds of them – is where the rubber meets the road. They are the reason you are different from everyone else.
Understanding how your particular SNPs interact with your diet and lifestyle is one of the cornerstones of personalised nutrition. We still have a lot to learn about how our genes work but there’s plenty that we do know that can help to improve your risk for disease.
I’ll be extracting my head from this particular gene/breast cancer rabbit hole in early November. After that I’ll be looking for people who want to work at this level to change their health for the better. Let me know if you’re interested.