Nutrigenomics, Mass Media and Commercialization Pressures

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • In 2004, the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium published its scientific description of the finished human genome sequence containing 20,000 to 25,000 protein-coding genes. The Human Genome Project (HGP), through political rhetoric and publicity, was portrayed as an end in itself, which, in the near term, would produce an explosion of new genomics products, services and therapeutics. Most have yet to materialize and some of those that have, especially in the area of genetic testing targeted directly at consumers, raise considerable ethical, regulatory and legitimacy issues. In particular, the field of nutrigenomics illustrates many of these concerns in the context of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising and delivery of genetic testing services, related products (such as nutritional supplements) and associated media coverage. This article presents preliminary data from a study of how the media translate knowledge about nutrigenomics to the public. Specifically, we are interested in whether media coverage of nutrigenomics is of sufficient quality for the public to understand the risks and benefits associated with genetic testing. We have considered three main sources of information: peer reviewed science journals, media coverage and, more briefly, promotional material from nutrigenomic company websites. A fuller understanding of the media’s role has policy implications as countries deal with regulating the provision of genetic testing services and the sale of nutritional supplements and personalized diet plans. It also has implications for regulating commercial representations of nutrigenomics, especially DTC advertising by genetic testing companies and the claims they can make about health benefits. Nutrigenomics is the study of how dietary components interact with genes and gene products to alter phenotype and, inversely, how genes and gene products metabolize dietary intake. Nutrigenomics offers the promise of genetic testing to integrate genomic information in preventive medicine and public health, as well as diet and lifestyle regimes tailored to an individual’s genetic makeup. The hope is that people will take the opportunity to modify their lifestyles and environment to reduce risk if they learn about genetic risk factors for a range of diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s. Ethical, legal and social issues in nutrigenomics are only beginning to be addressed.

  • Date created
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Research Material
  • DOI
  • License
    © 2007 Health Law Institute, University of Alberta. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original authors and source must be cited.
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  • Citation for previous publication
    • Bubela T, Taylor B (2007) Nutrigenomics, Mass Media and Commercialization Pressures. Health Law Review 16(3): 39-47. [Special Issue on Nutrigenomics]