Intended for healthcare professionals

Clinical Review Science, medicine, and the future

Nutritional genomics

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 15 June 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1438
  1. Ruan Elliott (, nutritional genomics programme leadera,
  2. Teng Jin Ong, associate directorb
  1. a Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich NR4 7UA
  2. b Clinical Research development, TNO BIBRA, Carshalton SM5 4DS
  1. Correspondence to: Ruan Elliott

    The link between diet and health is well established, but renewed interest in which dietary components are biologically active and how they exert their effects is being fuelled by the development of nutritional genomics. Nutritional genomics is the application of high throughput functional genomic technologies in nutrition research. These technologies can be integrated with databases of genomic sequences1 and inter-individual genetic variability,2 enabling the process of gene expression to be studied for many thousands of different genes in parallel. Such techniques can facilitate the definition of optimal nutrition at the level of populations, particular groups, and individuals. This in turn should promote the development of food derived treatments and funtionally enhanced foods to improve health.

    This review discusses both the science and its potential.

    Summary points

    Diet has a substantial impact on chronic disease and health, and functional genomic techniques could allow the bioactivities of food constituents to be defined

    Definition of these activities will allow improvement in health through dietary modification and fortification, novel foods, and “nutraceuticals”

    Challenges lie in the optimal design of nutritional studies and in the effective manipulation of the vast datasets generated

    It is now possible to define gene polymorphisms that predispose individuals to disease and modify nutritional requirements

    Characterisation of such gene polymorphisms will enable targeting of nutritional advice and treatment to “at risk” groups


    This article is based on a review of the literature and our combined personal experience of 19 years working in clinical and molecular nutrition research. It also draws on consensus views for future challenges and opportunities reached at a recent EU funded workshop addressing nutritional genomics, hosted by the Institute of Food Research.

    The impact of diet on our health

    Evidence that diet is a key environmental factor affecting the incidence of many chronic diseases is overwhelming. 3 4 The precise extent of this contribution is …

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