Dr Denise Furness, a Melbourne-based specialist in pregnancy and nutritional genomics, said that while nutrigenomic testing was becoming more affordable, it was still beyond the reach offor an average person across the region.
And although the nutrigenomic field is expanding globally, there are not enough medical practitioners specialising in this area in Asia.
“We are already in the era of genetics, and it is now easier to get your genes tested online whether for ancestry, risk of disease or any other reason,” Dr Furness said.
“But you need people who have the qualification and understanding to interpret and deliver these information to patients.”
Nutrigenomics studies how diet, nutrient supplements, and environmental factors such as chemicals and toxins interact with an individual’s genes and influence his or her health outcomes.
Aside from improving nutrition and diet, nutrigenomics can also be applied in a number of health concern areas, said Dr Furness, whose expertise is using nutrigenomics in relation to fertility and pregnancy.
This science can also benefit children with autism, weight management, mental health, chronic health prevention and sports and fitness, she added.
Dr Furness said using nutrigenomics for children with autism was popular in the US, and she has seen very good results in Australia when children’s diets and lifestyle have been modified.
Meanwhile In the sports and fitness space, nutrigenomics is increasingly helping identify athletes more suited for endurance, or if they would likely benefit from power or strength training.
‘’We can tell if they need a little more recovery,” said Dr Furness, who recently spoke at the 5th BioCeuticals Research Symposium in Australia.
“We can determine if they need an extra day of exercise or massage or any other form of recovery, which can be included in their training regime.”
She also believe that nutrigenomics should be considered for government health programmes, particularly those targetted at chronic illness.
“I personally think that in the long run, it would save government money, because you are not going to hospitalise people due to these chronic health conditions. Right now, chronic health conditions are a huge burden to every country. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer –these are all lifestyle diseases,” she said.
“If you can educate someone about their genes, they are more likely to heed the advice because it is for them, it is their genes.”
But the uptake would be slow, due to cost concerns.
“It all comes down to money, and how much the government is willing to invest,” she said.
Dr Furness said the health sector needed more opportunities for conversations or industry discussions revolving around nutrigenomics and its health benefits.
“Although this is a very new area, it is becoming more common, so we need to conduct more research, and the more evidence we get from those research, the more nutrigenomics will be accepted.”