We are all genetically unique, with the exception of identical twins. Everyone’s genes encode all the proteins needed for life, but the sum total of all our biochemical processes varies considerably from person to person. One of the consequences of this genetically determined biochemical individuality is that different people have quantitatively different needs for the nutritionally important minerals, vitamins, essential amino acids and more. Biochemist and nutrition pioneer Roger Williams (author of Biochemical Individuality) highlighted that requirements for any given nutrient may vary from person to person by a factor of five or more. Given the large number of genes affecting metabolic processes, it is likely that all of us have at least some nutritional needs that fall well outside the so-called normal range. These exceptional needs might be due to differences in digestion, absorption, excretion, enzyme patterns or other causes.
Biochemical individuality may well explain why clinical trials fail to find nutrients effective in disease prevention. These trials typically include participants chosen at random and test nutrients in amounts judged adequate for most people. Participants with average needs for the nutrient in question may have that need met by their diet plus any supplements they might take on their own; for them, the ‘therapy’ confers no further benefit. For people with exceptional needs, on the other hand, diet plus daily supplements, plus “therapy” might still not be enough to reach therapeutically effective nutrient levels – the levels needed to ensure proper functioning. Essential nutrients are substances that the body cannot make, or cannot make in adequate amounts. Unmet nutritional needs are likely to lead to health problems. With the state of today’s diet it is no wonder that chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers are on the rise. Fortunately many of these diseases respond to dietary interventions.
The science of nutrition has advanced over the years. It is now recognised that the gene-nutrient connection is two-way. Not only do nutrient requirements depend on genetic individuality but nutrients in turn are crucial for genome stability; therefore they act as antioxidants and co-factors for enzymes involved in DNA metabolism and repair. In fact, genome damage caused by even moderate micro nutrient deficiencies rivals damage from environmental factors like chemical carcinogens or radiation. The sharp drop in the cost of gene sequencing has now made it possible to screen individual patients for biomarkers of DNA vulnerability to micronutrient deficiencies, prescribe the appropriate nutritional therapy, and assess the effect of that therapy on DNA stability. Instead of diagnosing and treating diseases caused by genome damage, one can identify and nutritionally prevent the most fundamental initiating cause of developmental and degenerative disease-genome damage itself.