Nutrigenomics and Cancer

Ms. Anshika Singh

Nutrigenomics can be defined as research focussed on identification of interactions between dietary bioactive compounds and nutrients with genome at a molecular level. This branch of science deals with the concept of personalised nutrition based on an individual’s genotype and phenotype. Considering the exponential increase in cancer incidences, researchers worldwide are trying to find an association between diet and cancer prevention. Usual nutrition recommendations are given on basis that all individuals have same nutritional requirements with slight modifications according to their respective age groups and gender. However, nutrigenomics provides a new insight into effect of vitamins, minerals and bioactive compounds in modulation of gene expressions. Also, another aspect of nutrigenomics sheds insight into the concept that individual genetic variation can have different response to specific foods.

Some diet-regulated genes (and their normal, common variants) have been known to play a role in the onset, incidence, progression, and/or severity of chronic diseases and thus dietary intervention based on knowledge of nutritional requirement, nutritional status, and genotype (i.e., “personalized nutrition”) can be used to prevent, mitigate or cure chronic disease including cancer. Studies have shown that nutrition from food can affect the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of an individual’s body and its vulnerability to different diseases. The ongoing research in cancer based nutrigenomics highlights,

  • A probable linkage between intake of inadequate folate and increased risk of Colorectal cancer
  • Higher consumption of cruciferous vegetables can bring reduction in risk of Colorectal and Lung cancer
  • Extra virgin oil can reduce the expression of more than 100 genes involved in inflammatory response
  • Pomegranate juice has emerged as a potential inhibitor of Prostate cancer
  • Cinnamon extract has an anti-neoplastic effect on cervical cancer
  • Apoptotic effect of ginger species on cancer cells is also being explored worldwide
  • Curcumin, an active vital compound of turmeric is well known for its inhibitory effect on cancer cells during their initiation phase
  • The frequent consumption of tomatoes and its products is associated with decreased risk of cancer development
  • Antioxidant compounds of wine can prevent cancer initiation by targeting the ROS species and free radicals in the body
  • Polyphenols of green tea and ethanolic extract of honey bee glue can be used for their inhibitory and apoptotic effects on cancer cells

Although nutrigenomics is a science still in its infant stage, there is an incredible potential for the application of nutrition in cancer prevention and management. Until then, based on clinical evidences scientists have suggested following nutritional guidelines as preventive cancer measures:

  • Majority of your plate should be covered with plant foods which include vegetables in all colours of rainbow
  • Try to get maximum nutrients from whole foods (Unprocessed foods such as broccoli, brown rice) rather than supplements
  • Avoid excessive intake of any one nutrient
  • In case if you have a family history of cancer, individuals should follow American Cancer Society’s recommendations for Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention