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Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
10 May

Metabolic Fingerprinting

fingerprintYes, it’s oh-so-middle-school, but we called it! Following the first ever metabolome-wide association study conducted across four countries, researchers are affirming the promise of metabolic fingerprinting in studying the links diet and other lifestyle factors have with specific disease risk. Once again, the focus is on gene expression, the resulting phenotype rather than our initial genetic “text.” Researchers compared levels of several metabolites (particles produced by the metabolic process) that were present in 4,630 subjects, who hailed from the U.S., the United Kingdom, China and Japan.

For the study, researchers took urine samples from volunteers aged between 40 and 59 and analysed these for over several thousand metabolite signals, using NMR spectroscopy and advanced statistics. The volunteers were participating in the INTERMAP study, an epidemiological study investigating the links between diet and blood pressure.

via Science Daily

The conclusions? Fingerprinting of subjects in the U.S. and U.K. indicated similar patterns, but these results substantially contrasted with patterns found in China or Japan. Differences were also significant between the profile results of Chinese and Japanese test subjects. To further confirm the lifestyle basis of these differences, researchers analyzed metabolite levels from Japanese and Japanese-American subjects. The comparative results indicated that Japanese-Americans’ metabolic profiles showed more similarity with other Americans’ metabolic patterns than they did with Japanese profiles. These metabolic patterns complement the difference in disease rates.

As Professor Paul Elliott, one of the study’s authors from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial College explains: “… whereas a person can’t alter their DNA, they can change their metabolic profile by changing their diet and lifestyle. This means that as we figure out where the problems lie, we should also be able to show people ways to reduce their risk of certain diseases.” Hmmm. Where have we heard that before?

This study further confirms our ongoing (and evolving) thesis that, from a genetic perspective, we’re very similar, at least when it comes to how we metabolize food and how our genes express themselves as a result of the foods we eat. Our genetic expression, for every single one of us, becomes the metabolic end product of our diet and lifestyle choices.

Given this study and its impact researchers hope it will have on personal disease risk assessment, you can go to a doctor and pay a lot of money to find out you have the metabolites that indicate a higher risk of certain diseases. (We pretty much know what the tests will show if you eat according to CW, right?) Or you can just concede that when you eat and live healthily (the Primal Blueprint way being our humble suggestion) your profile won’t take the shape of those insidious, high risk metabolic fingerprints.

Hmmm. We’d personally suggest saving yourself a few hundred or thousand bucks. We can think of better ways to unload that kind of cash – maybe a quarter grass-fed cattle order or a CSA share? A week-long trip to the mountains or beach, all in the name of stress relief?

Thoughts? Questions? Send ‘em on.

epadilla Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: Gene Expression

Gene Expression: Location, Location, Location

Eye on DNA: Stunning Gene Expression Visualization

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Hi there,

    I was wondering where a good source for gene expression would be on the web or in book format. A good primer for the non-biology major would be nice. I’m very interested in this idea of gene expression, as I just came across it on your blog the other day.


    Nicholas Hahn wrote on May 12th, 2008
  2. Nicholas –

    Great question. Mark is working on a book (Primal Blueprint) that will cover genetic expression in detail. We will also be covering the latest research/findings regarding genetic expression in coming months so check back regularly!

    Aaron wrote on May 12th, 2008
  3. Nice!! Thanks for pointing out that article.

    Sasquatch wrote on May 13th, 2008
  4. Very thought provoking.

    gary wrote on December 31st, 2008

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