A consortium of 88 researchers from the U.S. and around the world, including 12 UC Davis scientists, is calling for an international effort to study how diets and genetics interact in health and disease. Stimulating collaboration in nutritional genomics, or "nutrigenomics," could increase global health and wellness and reduce health disparities in both developed and developing countries, they write in an article in a recent issue of the British Journal of Nutrition.
"We want to link up researchers in the U.S. with our friends in Europe and the Pacific Rim. Nutrigenomics is a multidisciplinary science, and the chances of finding all the skills you need in one lab are nil. We really need to come together as an international team," said Ray Rodriguez, professor of molecular and cellular biology and director of the Center of Excellence in Nutritional Genomics at UC Davis.
Nutrigenomics aims to work out the relationships between diet, genetics and disease. Diet is known to influence chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. But these links are not always clear, and individuals respond in different ways to changes in diet. Some ethnic groups show exceptionally high rates of chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
An early priority for international collaboration is to set up a nutritional genomics databank where researchers worldwide can file their results, Rodriguez said. Scientists could look for new patterns by sifting through the collected mass of data.
"I believe the solutions to many of our current health problems already exist scattered around the world in different databases. If we could mine them successfully, we might be able to find cures to some of these diseases," Rodriguez said. UC Davis is providing leadership in integrating these databases, he said.
The initiative grew out of the Bruce Ames International Symposium on Nutritional Genomics, held at UC Davis in October 2004. The Center of Excellence in Nutritional Genomics at UC Davis is supported by a grant from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, a part of the National Institutes of Health.