Nutrigenomics and the Promise of Prevention: Representations and Realities

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Nutrigenomics has been called the “next frontier in the postgenomic era.” Over the past few years this emerging area has received a considerable amount of attention, both in the popular press and from the scientific community. Viewed as one of the more promising applications of genomics and as being on the cutting edge of nutritional research, one commentator notes, “[i]f you were to sum up the future of nutritional science into a single word, chances are it would be nutrigenomics.” Nutrigenomics can be described as the study of the relationship between genes, diet, lifestyle and health. It explores “how diet regulates gene function (transcription and translation) and metabolism (i.e., diet – gene interactions).” In other words, nutrigenomics focuses on “understanding how nutrition influences metabolism and maintenance of the internal equilibrium in the body, how this regulation is disturbed in the early phase of a diet-related disease and to what extent the individual genotype contributes to such diseases.” Questions nutrigenomics ask include: How do genes impact the way in which individuals metabolize food? What impact does the interaction between lifestyle, genes and nutrition have on disease etiology? As with other areas of genetics, the rise of nutrigenomics has raised social concerns. Indeed, existing services have been critiqued as unnecessary and misleading. While these social concerns are important, this paper examines the ways in which nutrigenomics is being presented and justified. What are the claims to support the rise of the field and how might the representations of nutrigenomics shape its future? In other words, how is nutrigenomics being framed? As Nisbet and Mooney articulate, frames “allow citizens to rapidly identify why an issue matters, who might be responsible, and what should be done.” We explore how this emerging field is represented in the public sphere by examining how nutrigenomics is framed in the scientific literature, by research groups, private companies, and the popular press. The representation of nutrigenomics by these dominant stakeholders will likely have important implications for public perceptions, uptake, and, ultimately, viability of this new science.

  • Date created
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Research Material
  • DOI
  • License
    © 2008 Health Law Institute, University...
  • Language
  • Citation for previous publication
    • Caulfield T, Shelley J, Alfonso V, Bubela T (2008) Nutrigenomics and the Promise of Prevention: Representations and Realities. Health Law Journal Special Edition 41-65.