Throughout our lives, we are exposed to a complex mixture of food compounds. Intricate biochemical processes extract from food the energy and other useful components that enable us to grow and function. Many compounds, seemingly unimportant in the past, are now recognized as influencing our health. For example, lycopene from cooked tomato sauces may help prevent prostate cancer.
Everyone, indeed, knows that food can have a positive or negative impact on health. Food may never cure any particular disease, but diets rich in fruits and vegetables, cereals and plant-sourced oils offer protection from many cancers, cardiovascular disease, and other illnesses associated with old age. The problem, for scientists and consumers alike, is that the benefits are not the same for everyone.
So we need to understand how what we eat interacts with our bodies – or, more specifically, our genes – to affect our health. This is the science of nutrigenomics. The long-term aim of nutrigenomics is to define how the whole body responds to food using so called “systems biology.”