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Metabolic Fingerprinting

Posted By Worker Bee On May 10, 2008 @ 8:37 am In Gene Expression,Health,Research Analysis | 4 Comments

Yes, it’s oh-so-middle-school, but we called it! Following the first ever metabolome-wide association study [7] 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 [8]

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 [9] 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 [10] Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: Gene Expression [11]

Gene Expression: Location, Location, Location [12]

Eye on DNA: Stunning Gene Expression Visualization [13]

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds [14]


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[7] study: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature06882.html

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