One day, doctors will scan a person’s genome when he or she is born and recommend the perfect diet for them to maintain perfect health. The science of nutrigenomics is not totally there year but advances are being made.

A Cornell University study published earlier this month describes how humans genetically adapted to the changes in their diet with the arrival of agriculture.

When humans started farming some 8,000 years ago they switched from a hunter-gatherer type of diet with lots of meat to a more plant-heavy diet.

The study published in the journal Ecology and Evolution demonstrated that this switch gave an evolutionary advantage to people that were better able to digest the plant-based food and thrive on it.

Natural selection

This is what happened: Once people started eating more plants, those with a gene called FADS1, which enables bio-synthesis of omega-3 and omega-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids from pre-cursors available in plants gained an evolutionary advantage. They became healthier and able to have more children that had better chances to survive. As a result, the FADS1 gene started spreading in the human population.

The polyunsaturated fatty acids are crucial for proper human brain development, controlling inflammation and immune response. Analysis of ancient DNA revealed that before humans started farming, people with the opposite version of the same gene had an evolutionary advantage.

Is pure plant-based diet for everyone?

However, not everyone today is equipped with the genes suitable for plant-only diet. The researchers said that in the south of Europe, where reliance on plant-based food was heavier than in the north, the genes enabling synthesis of the Omega-3s from plant-based pre-cursors spread faster. That means that today, people without the plant-only genes still exist. And the question is, what happens when they embark on a vegetarian diet.

“I want to know how different individuals respond differently to the same diet,” said Kaixiong Ye, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell and lead author of the paper. “In the future, we can provide dietary recommendations that are personalized to one’s genetic background.”

Could the blood type diet have some foundation at the end?

This type of research is quite important. We all have met the die-hard vegans admonishing everyone who refuses to accept that vegan is the only way.

I myself had to learn this the hard way. Always an animal person, I quit meet in my mid-twenties. It work fine for a while but after about four or five years, my health started deteriorating. My energy levels were low, my face was full of painful acne cysts, I developed endometriosis on my ovaries and I my hair was shedding like crazy.

The scientifically heavily dismissed blood type diet states that people with blood group O need to eat meet since this blood type is the original hunter-gatherer blood type. I have blood type O and I was quite dismissive about the blood type diet thing in my vegetarian days.

Now I eat fish or chicken every day and make a huge pot of bone broth every week. My skin looks great. My ovarian cysts are gone and while my hair has not recovered yet, it feels better than at the end of my veggie years.

The science of nutrigenomics is not there yet to prescribe us with the perfect individualised diet plan based on our genes. There are quite some recommendations that would benefit everyone (cut that sugar crap). However, figuring the best for you at the moment is a matter of self-experimentation and listening to your body’s subtle signals.