Does a person’s metabolism influence how they process certain foods?

It seems obvious that it would, so it’s no surprise that personalised nutrition is a hot topic in the wellness community. ‘DNA diets’ are enabling people to follow food and exercise regimes that are created specifically for their unique genetic profile.

So, if the way individuals process food is, in part, dependent on their genetic makeup, then what about the way they process medicine?

It makes sense that our genetic makeup is a key factor in determining how our bodies react to different drugs and, when armed with this knowledge, it can help improve healthcare delivery. Research has shown that less than 50% of the population metabolizes drugs in what is considered a ‘normal’ way, and yet most individuals receive the same medication in similar doses regardless of their individual needs*. 

There is an entire field of medical science dedicated to learning more about how genetic testing can be used to determine the most effective treatment. It’s called pharmacogenomics and it is central to the practice of precision medicine – the idea that you can provide individual treatment based on a person’s genetic and social data.  

For example, through genetic testing I’ve learned that I’m ultra-fast metaboliser of many different drugs, which means some medication doesn’t work at all while others could potentially harm me. This knowledge helps me avoid adverse reactions, while also helping clinicians avoid wasting both time and medication during treatment.

What if everybody’s health record contained metabolic information? This would enable clinicians to provide more targeted advice about a person’s diet and its impact on their health. And it would mean they could prescribe their patients drugs in more accurate doses.

Orion Health recognises the importance of accurate medical treatment and has collaborated with various universities and district health boards to create Precision Driven Health, a research partnership dedicated to improving healthcare through data science. The more information we have available, the more precise our healthcare services can be. 

*Jonathan Lancaster (Myriad) 2006