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A critical evaluation of results from genome-wide association studies of micronutrient status and their utility in the practice of precision nutrition

  • Marie-Joe Dib (a1), Ruan Elliott (a1) and Kourosh R. Ahmadi (a1)


Rapid advances in ‘omics’ technologies have paved the way forward to an era where more ‘precise’ approaches – ‘precision’ nutrition – which leverage data on genetic variability alongside the traditional indices, have been put forth as the state-of-the-art solution to redress the effects of malnutrition across the life course. We purport that this inference is premature and that it is imperative to first review and critique the existing evidence from large-scale epidemiological findings. We set out to provide a critical evaluation of findings from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in the roadmap to precision nutrition, focusing on GWAS of micronutrient disposition. We found that a large number of loci associated with biomarkers of micronutrient status have been identified. Mean estimates of heritability of micronutrient status ranged between 20 and 35 % for minerals, 56–59 % for water-soluble and 30–70 % for fat-soluble vitamins. With some exceptions, the majority of the identified genetic variants explained little of the overall variance in status for each micronutrient, ranging between 1·3 and 8 % (minerals), <0·1–12 % (water-soluble) and 1·7–2·3 % for (fat-soluble) vitamins. However, GWAS have provided some novel insight into mechanisms that underpin variability in micronutrient status. Our findings highlight obvious gaps that need to be addressed if the full scope of precision nutrition is ever to be realised, including research aimed at (i) dissecting the genetic basis of micronutrient deficiencies or ‘response’ to intake/supplementation (ii) identifying trans-ethnic and ethnic-specific effects (iii) identifying gene–nutrient interactions for the purpose of unravelling molecular ‘behaviour’ in a range of environmental contexts.


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*Corresponding author: Kourosh R. Ahmadi, email


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A critical evaluation of results from genome-wide association studies of micronutrient status and their utility in the practice of precision nutrition

  • Marie-Joe Dib (a1), Ruan Elliott (a1) and Kourosh R. Ahmadi (a1)


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