Genomic Medicine + Culinary Arts
Culinary genomics requires a deep understanding of, and appreciation for the current research in three scientific areas: cell biology, biochemistry and the culinary arts. A clinician must understand transcription, translation, how these processes are used to replicate DNA, and how bioactives (phytochemicals) in the foods interact with the nucleus of a cell via cell signaling pathways.
Bioactives are non-nutritive components found in food (mostly plants) that have demonstrated health-conducive properties. Examples of bioactives include flavonoids, carotenoids and glucosinolates. Bioactives are not strong enough to alter redox balance, but capable of registering a stress signal to the cell, and strong enough to initiate a biochemical cascade culminating in gene expression/repression. Culinary Genomics considers which bioactives have demonstrated nutrigenomic activity in human cells and adds them to a culinary toolbox. But this is only one third of the equation.
Biochemistry & Culinary Genomics
The second component of culinary genomics is an understanding of biochemistry. Bioactives play a crucial role in gene expression, resulting in protein transcription (production). Proteins such as enzymes, sometimes require nutrient cofactors to facilitate their work. Culinary genomics forces clinicians to think in terms of biochemical pathways that are associated with our patient’s health goals. For example, if the goal is to reduce oxidative stress, culinary genomics might consider up-regulating the Nrf2 gene. Nrf2 transcribes for 5 potent intracellular redox enzymes which require nutrient cofactors (selenium, magnesium, iron, etc.) to thwart a reactive oxygen species challenge. By combining an understanding of bioactives and nutrient cofactors that support biochemical processes, a clinician can achieve desired health outcomes.
Culinary Genomics & The Kitchen
The third and last component of Culinary Genomics is the kitchen. The kitchen requires skill, technique, and creativity. Technique refers to how we work with ingredients containing delicate bioactives. Bioactives are both heat and acid sensitive, requiring care to preserve the integrity of bioactives in preparation and menu development, in order to optimize food-gene interaction. Next is creativity. Preserving bioactives requires developing menus that combine both cooked and raw approaches, and working with a targeted toolbox of ingredients rich in bioactives and cofactors. This culinary field hinges upon the use of bioactives with demonstrated nutrigenomic activity, working with very specific ingredients and flavor profiles. It takes creativity to create delicious meals and a wide variety of options. As the field of nutrigenomics expands, more ingredients will be added to the toolbox, but for now, we are limited to evidence-based specifics.
Applying Culinary Genomics To Clinical Practice
The first step to utilize culinary genomics with your patients is to prioritize health goals and ingredients. Map out your care plan with the ingredients that will help you achieve a patient’s health outcomes. This process provides an opportunity to outline the underlying reasons you are recommending specific ingredients. Handing out recipes without the deeper context certain ingredients work can be less effective in the long run.
Culinary Genomics In Action
The graphic below represents a culinary translation of genomic information presented by Amanda and Dr. Roberta Kline in 2016 at a CME-accredited scientific conference for healthcare professionals.
This roadmap prioritizes health interventions for a patient based on genomic test results. The blocks that are shaded in yellow are health priorities. Adjacent to each health priority are the gene SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) or variants from the genomic test results (blocks shaded in green), defining intervention goals. In the outer area, key bioactives and the nutrient cofactors are listed for each condition in support of the nutrigenomic intervention. As a whole, the graphic outlines a culinary genomic map, a route from genomic test results to the kitchen.
Amanda Archibald provides advanced Culinary Genomics training for healthcare professionals as part of Genoma CPE-accredited courses. For non-clinicians who are interested in learning how to apply these concepts to your own health, or clinicians who want to start with a simple approach to nutrigenomics and food, we highly recommend the offerings at The Genomic Kitchen.