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Metabolic programming and metabolic imprinting describe early life events, which impact upon on later physiological outcomes. Despite the increasing numbers of papers and studies, the distinction between metabolic programming and metabolic imprinting remains confusing. The former can be defined as a dynamic process whose effects are dependent upon a critical window(s) while the latter can be more strictly associated with imprinting at the genomic level. The clinical end points associated with these phenomena can sometimes be mechanistically explicable in terms of gene expression mediated by epigenetics. The predictivity of outcomes depends on determining if there is causality or association in the context of both early dietary exposure and future health parameters. The use of biomarkers is a key aspect of determining the predictability of later outcome, and the strengths of particular types of biomarkers need to be determined. It has become clear that several important health endpoints are impacted upon by metabolic programming/imprinting. These include the link between perinatal nutrition, nutritional epigenetics and programming at an early developmental stage and its link to a range of future health risks such as CVD and diabetes. In some cases, the evidence base remains patchy and associative, while in others, a more direct causality between early nutrition and later health is clear. In addition, it is also essential to acknowledge the communication to consumers, industry, health care providers, policy-making bodies as well as to the scientific community. In this way, both programming and, eventually, reprogramming can become effective tools to improve health through dietary intervention at specific developmental points.
Nutrigenomics is the study of how constituents of the diet interact with genes, and their products, to alter phenotype and, conversely, how genes and their products metabolise these constituents into nutrients, antinutrients, and bioactive compounds. Results from molecular and genetic epidemiological studies indicate that dietary unbalance can alter gene–nutrient interactions in ways that increase the risk of developing chronic disease. The interplay of human genetic variation and environmental factors will make identifying causative genes and nutrients a formidable, but not intractable, challenge. We provide specific recommendations for how to best meet this challenge and discuss the need for new methodologies and the use of comprehensive analyses of nutrient–genotype interactions involving large and diverse populations. The objective of the present paper is to stimulate discourse and collaboration among nutrigenomic researchers and stakeholders, a process that will lead to an increase in global health and wellness by reducing health disparities in developed and developing countries.
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