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How Your Genetics Impact Your Micronutrient Needs

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Have you ever wondered why some people thrive on a particular diet… while others struggle with the same foods?
It turns out that the answer may lie in your genes. The emerging field of nutrigenomics explores how our genetic makeup affects our nutritional requirements, including the vital micronutrients that keep our bodies running smoothly.
In today’s article, we’ll delve into the power of micronutrients, the genetic nuances that impact your unique nutrient needs, and the best food sources to maximize your micronutrients and your health.

How Your Genetics Impact Your Micronutrient Needs

By Kelley Herring

Micronutrients: The Building Blocks of Health

Before we dive into the fascinating world of nutrigenomics, let’s take a moment to understand the importance of micronutrients.

Micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are the unsung heroes of our health. These tiny compounds play significant roles in maintaining our well-being, from supporting our immune system to aiding in the production of energy.

From vitamin C’s ability to boost our immune system to the critical role of iron in oxygen transport, micronutrients are non-negotiable for a healthy and vibrant life.[i]

But here’s the twist: not everyone requires the same amount of these micronutrients, and genetics play a pivotal role in determining these individual needs.

healthy food nutrients nutrigenomics

Nutrigenomics: Unraveling Genetic Influences

Nutrigenomics is the science that explores the interaction between our genes and the food we eat.

It delves into the unique genetic variations that influence how our bodies metabolize and utilize micronutrients. In other words, it’s all about understanding why your friend can thrive on a low-carb diet… while you might need more carbohydrates for optimal health.

Our genetic makeup is a complex mosaic, and certain variations in our genes can impact how we absorb, transport, and utilize micronutrients. Let’s take a closer look at a few examples:

  • Vitamin D and the VDR Gene: Vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is essential for bone health and immune function. Variations in the VDR gene can affect how your body responds to vitamin D intake, influencing your ideal daily dose.[ii]
  • MTHFR Gene and Folate Metabolism: Folate, a B vitamin crucial for DNA synthesis, can be influenced by the MTHFR gene. Genetic variations in this gene can impact your body’s ability to convert folate into its active form, affecting your folate requirements.[iii]
  • Iron Regulation and the HFE Gene: Iron, vital for oxygen transport, can be affected by the HFE gene. Mutations in this gene may lead to conditions like hemochromatosis, where the body absorbs too much iron, or anemia, when iron absorption is impaired.[iv]
  • Choline and the PEMT Gene: Choline is crucial for liver function, brain development, and nerve function. The PEMT gene plays a role in choline metabolism. Variations in this gene can impact your choline needs, potentially affecting your liver health and cognitive function.[v]
  • Coenzyme Q10 and Genetics: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is essential for cell energy production. Genetic variations can influence CoQ10 levels, affecting energy metabolism and overall health.[vi]
  • Zinc and Genetic Variations: Zinc plays a crucial role in immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis. Genetic variations can impact how your body absorbs and utilizes zinc, influencing your zinc requirements.[vii]
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Genetic Variations: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and their role in brain health. Genetic variations can affect how your body processes and utilizes omega-3s, potentially influencing your brain and heart health.[viii]

As we explore further, it becomes evident that the micronutrients we’ve long considered as “one size fits all” are anything but. Your genetic makeup can determine whether you need a little extra vitamin C to support your immune system… or if you’re at a higher risk of iron deficiency due to genetic factors.[ix]

Harnessing Genetic Insights for Personalized Nutrition

The idea of personalized nutrition based on genetics is an exciting frontier. It offers a vision where your diet aligns perfectly with your unique genetic blueprint.

But how do you go about harnessing these insights for your health?

  • Genetic Testing for Personalized Insights: Genetic testing has become more accessible and affordable. Companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA offer insights into your genetic makeup, including how your genes may influence your micronutrient needs.
  • Consulting with Healthcare Professionals: While genetic testing can provide valuable information, it’s essential to consult with healthcare professionals, including registered dietitians and genetic counselors. They can help interpret your results and provide personalized recommendations.

Navigating Your Micronutrient Needs with Genetic Guidance

Personalized nutrition based on genetics is not about extreme dietary changes but making informed choices and starting from a whole food, ancestral diet template.

Here’s how you can navigate your micronutrient needs with genetic guidance:

Micronutrient-Rich Foods: It should come as no surprise that the foods richest in micronutrients are animal foods. Focusing on whole foods rich in essential micronutrients is the best way to provide your body with what it needs.

  1. Beef Liver: Beef liver is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in vitamin A, vitamin B12, iron, and other essential minerals
  2. Chicken Liver: Like beef liver, chicken liver is an excellent source of vitamin B12, vitamin A, and iron.
  3. Oysters: Oysters are known for their high zinc content, which is crucial for immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis. They’re also rich in vitamin B12.
  4. Clams: Clams are an excellent source of iron, vitamin B12, and other minerals.
  5. Salmon: Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart and brain health. It’s also a good source of vitamin D and high-quality protein.
  6. Sardines: Sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium.
  7. Mackerel: Mackerel is another fatty fish loaded with omega-3s. It’s also a good source of vitamin D, selenium, and vitamin B12.
  8. Egg Yolks: Egg yolks contain essential nutrients, including choline, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and various antioxidants.
  9. Kidneys: Organ meats like kidneys are high in B vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B12. They also provide essential minerals like iron and selenium.
  10. Bone Marrow: Bone marrow is a rich source of healthy fats, particularly monounsaturated fats. It’s also a good source of vitamin B12.
  11. Brain: Brain tissue, though less common in Western diets, is rich in essential fatty acids and certain nutrients that support brain health.
  12. Heart: Beef and chicken hearts are excellent sources of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which plays a role in energy production. They also provide a range of B vitamins.
  13. Tongue: Beef tongue is a good vitamin B12, zinc, and iron source. It’s also relatively low in fat.
  14. Testes (Testicles): While less commonly consumed, testes are high in certain nutrients like zinc and vitamin B12.
  15. Lamb: Lamb is a good source of heme iron, vitamin B12, zinc, and selenium. It’s a flavorful alternative to beef.

When consuming organ meats and animal foods, it’s essential to ensure they come from healthy and properly raised animals. These foods can be a valuable addition to your diet, providing a wide range of essential micronutrients and supporting overall health.

In some cases, genetic testing may reveal a need for specific supplements. For instance, if you have genetic variations that affect your vitamin D metabolism or a gut issue that impairs your ability to absorb certain nutrients, your healthcare professional may recommend supplements.

Your genetic profile can provide a roadmap for your nutritional journey, but remember – it’s not static. Periodic monitoring and adjustments based on your health and genetic insights are key to long-term well-being.

blood sugar, meditation, low fat diet, sleep deprivation

Maximize Your Micronutrients for the Healthiest YOU!

The relationship between your genetics and your micronutrient needs is a dynamic one. It’s a reminder that one-size-fits-all dietary recommendations are now a thing of the past. As nutrigenomics continues to evolve, we’re on the cusp of an era where our diets will be as unique as our genetic fingerprints.

Understanding how your genetics impact your micronutrient needs empowers you to make informed choices that are tailored to your individual well-being.

So, the next time you reach for some super-nutrient chicken liver braunschweiger or an extra serving of dark leafy greens, remember that your genes play a significant role in your nutritional journey and ultimate well-being.
By embracing this genetic insight, you can take charge of your health, one nutrient-dense bite at a time!


 

Our Discover Blog is an excellent resource that you shouldn’t miss out on. You’ll find a wealth of fantastic articles there, including contributions from renowned health and wellness expert Kelley Herring and other trusted sources. Whether you’re looking for advice on healthy eating, fitness, Farm Life, and more, you will find something interesting to explore!

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Kelley Herring

Cook healthier meals in a fraction of the time with Kelley’s newest program Instant Pot Keto. Inside you’ll discover 100+ ketogenic recipes made with the magic of the Instant Pot, all designed to provide superior nutrition and metabolic balance. Get your copy of Instant Pot Keto today!

References

i Smith AD, Smith SM, de Jager CA, et al. Homocysteine-lowering by B vitamins slows the rate of accelerated brain atrophy in mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trial. PLoS One. 2010;5(9):e12244.
ii Uitterlinden AG, Fang Y, Van Meurs JB, Pols HA, Van Leeuwen JP. Genetics and biology of vitamin D receptor polymorphisms. Gene. 2004;338(2):143-156. doi:10.1016/j.gene.2004.05.014.
iii Lucock M. Folic acid: nutritional biochemistry, molecular biology, and role in disease processes. Mol Genet Metab. 2000;71(1-2):121-138.
iv Beutler E, Gelbart T, Lee PL. HLA-H mutations in hemochromatosis. Lancet. 1997;349(9044):1629.
v Zeisel SH. Choline: critical role during fetal development and dietary requirements in adults. Annu Rev Nutr. 2006;26:229-250.
vi Ernster L, Dallner G. Biochemical, physiological and medical aspects of ubiquinone function. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1995;1271(1):195-204.
vii Prasad AS. Zinc: an overview. Nutrition. 1995;11(1 Suppl):93-99.
viii Mozaffarian D, Wu JH. (n-3) fatty acids and cardiovascular health: are effects of EPA and DHA shared or complementary? J Nutr. 2012;142(3):614S-625S.
ix National Human Genome Research Institute. Genetic Information and the Individual’s Right to Privacy. Accessed October 3, 2023.