The era of cookie-cutter diets has come and gone, and we couldn't be happier about it! Out with the dogmatic, one-size-fits-all approach and in with highly personalized nutrition recommendations.
Today’s nutrition clients are looking for solutions that take into account their biochemical individuality, preferences and lifestyle needs, and even their unique genetic makeup. That's right. Clients want a practitioner who can give them a meal plan as unique as their own fingerprints.
We sat down with That Clean Life member Amanda Archibald, Registered Dietitian and founder of The Genomic Kitchen where her team merges nutrigenomics with the culinary arts, a practice she calls "Culinary Genomics."
"In my work, I use both nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics:
Nutrigenomics: Investigates how food and its constituents influence gene expression. In other words, how macronutrients micronutrients and bioactives turn genes on and off, and the biochemical and health impact of this action.
Nutrigenetics: Looks at the impact of a gene variant (called an SNP or single nucleotide polymorphisms) on nutrient absorption and utilization.”
Collecting Genetic Information From Clients
Amanda’s clients either receive a DNA test kit when they start working with her, or they already have some DNA results of their own which can then be interpreted to provide clinically relevant data.
Amanda recommends MaxGen Labs for testing kits and Nutrition Genome for interpreting data clients may have already received through a 23andMe kit they purchased.
Once Amanda has the data she needs, she puts in some work before sitting down with the client.
"My work is in translating the genomic test information using a polygenic approach. This means cross-mapping the gene variants through multiple biochemical pathways to provide a storyboard that tells the client how their genes may or may not be impacting their health. I create a visual board for them and an extensive customized report. At this point, I meet with the client and we go through the report and my observations.”
Using Genetic Information to Inform Meal Planning
When it comes time to build out a meal plan, each client will have a different focus and different considerations. No two meal plans will look the same, we got some great examples of just how unique The Genomic Kitchen's meal plans are.
“If a client has a variant in the TNC1 gene that may impact utilization of Vitamin B12, that’s an indicator for a clinician to consider nutrition evaluation and targeted food implementation. But we would actually look for more genes involved in B12 metabolism as well as symptoms related to B12 deficiency before we determined whether that TCN1 SNP means the client needs B12 support. So I might look at TCN2, FUT2 as well as MTR and MTRR gene variants before I jumped to B12 as a nutrient target.”
If it is determined that the client does indeed need additional B12 support, Amanda provides recipes high in B12 and supplementation instructions if needed.
Another example explains why one person might thrive on a plant-based diet while another person doesn't:
"A SNP in BCMO1 is an example of nutrigenetics, this SNP might impact vitamin A levels if an individual is vegan or vegetarian with minimal animal proteins (which contain vitamin A in its active form). In this case, an evaluation of vitamin A levels might be indicated. Depending on the results, either a strategic dietary plan focusing on beta-carotene rich foods for a period of time is indicated, with a re-evaluation of Vitamin A levels, or supplementation is suggested. This is on a case by case basis."
In Amanda’s practice, they test rather than guess. Her clients receive bloodwork to validate any observation that they may need specific nutrient support before moving on to create their meal plan. Genetic information is one piece of the puzzle.
Keeping Clients Motivated to Succeed
The first step to ensuring a client is successful is to conduct a thorough assessment of their unique needs outside of DNA and biomarkers.
"Beyond strategic nutrient targets, we consider food sensitivities, texture and flavor preferences, and cultural/ethnic nuances. We actually have an extensive questionnaire we use to understand the individual's shopping habits, cooking ability, equipment on hand, food budget and many other factors that are integral to planning and eating meals.
Download our free Meal Planning Assessment Tool here.
Amanda uses That Clean Life to search for recipes based on the specific nutrients her clients need to focus on, as well as the time they have to prepare a meal, culinary skills, cooking tools, and sensitivities. From there she can turn the recipes into a detailed meal plan that takes into account their energy and macronutrient needs or put together a recipe book to guide their home cooking.
The Genomic Kitchen provides recipes to their clients organized by their M.I.S.E principles, which clients are taught while they wait for their lab results. They learn which foods target master genes that impact oxidative stress, inflammation, fat and carbohydrate metabolism and more.
This way, by the time a client receives their custom meal plan they know exactly why certain foods are important and are highly motivated to remain compliant.
The Genomic Kitchen’s work goes beyond working with clients and Amanda is equally passionate about getting her fellow clinicians on board with this new era of highly personalized nutrition. She provides professional education to nutrition and culinary professionals interested in incorporating nutrigenetics into their practice.
"There are too many individuals in the nutrition and medical fields who would have you believe that “there is not enough science.” There is plenty of evidence-based science that explains how nutrients influence gene expression of how genes influence nutrient utilization. Genomic testing is the most powerful tool I have ever seen in 25 years as a Dietitian and I encourage all Dietitians to take a look at this field. Don’t be behind the curve, get ahead of it. It is lifechanging for us clinically and even more so for our clients.”
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