When a cow can kill
If you have stomach aches at the thought of milk, then probably food intolerance is not strange to you. This is a surprisingly common complaint and affects more and more adults in one way or another. Advances in the field of personal genomics tell us more than ever how genetic conditioning influences the intolerance of lactose and gluten.
People who do not tolerate lactose have difficulty digesting it, because their bodies do not produce a specific enzyme (lactase), which breaks down the sugars contained in milk and its derivatives. Often the blame for not absorbing lactose is the large amount of milk consumed during childhood. In fact, genetics is the main factor.
Adults who can drink milk without unpleasant side effects have a feature called lactase maintenance. Historically, people drank only as babies, so they had no need to digest dairy products after puberty, so their bodies eventually lost their lactase production. These mechanisms are encoded in DNA, and the gene known as MCM6 is responsible for this. It works like a switch that controls whether lactose digestion is turned on or off. This switch controls many biological factors, so some people whose DNA encodes lactose intolerance can actually consume dairy products as well as milk itself without any discomfort. In these people the body still produces the enzyme (lactase) even in adulthood, which helps in the digestion of lactose. In addition to genetic factors, the ability to digest lactose can be influenced by the type and amount of bacteria naturally present in the stomach and intestines.
It turns out that these small hitchhikers can play an important role in the process of food processing, and some evidence indicates that genetics can affect the types of bacteria in the stomach. This, in turn, may have an indirect effect on the absorption of nutrients and vitamins.
More directly, changes in genes may also affect how well we metabolize nutrients, a gene known as FUT2 works here. It is specifically related to the metabolism of vitamin B12. Piling research suggests that changes in FUT2 may be associated with several conditions related to digestion and bacterial intestinal infections (although further research is needed to ultimately link these threats to genetics).
The baguette is more dangerous than a rifle
Another gluten intolerance appears, which has become evident in recent years, as restaurants and grocery stores have started to offer a wide range of contrasting gluten-free products. Gluten is a natural component of many grains, thanks to which the dough grows and retains its shape. Gluten intolerance is the subject of very active research. Until now, they suggest that some forms of gluten intolerance are associated with DNA changes, prompting many genetic tests to differentiate many forms of discomfort.
Wheat is one of the eight most important food allergens. Allergy to it is an immune response to any protein found in wheat, including, but not limited to, gluten. It is most common in children. About 65% of people grow from allergies to wheat at the age of about 12 years.
Often food intolerance is subtle – so much that we do not even realize it. We do not see that a given component causes us trouble and causes discomfort. By assessing DNA for changes related to various intolerances, you can be better prepared to manage your diet and reduce this discomfort.
Our genes are not our destiny. Some of the dietary preferences – and the different ways in which the body responds to food – are conditioned by the influence of the environment and personal history. Science has shown that genetics can combine with these factors to affect the body’s ability to process certain foods, which means that genetic tests can help determine what foods to avoid and how to make simple diet changes they can improve well-being.