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Yet another term in -genomics for us to add to pharmacogenomics, toxicogenomics, chemogenomics and even aromagenomics. Our current obsession with genes is reflected in this growing list of words that borrow the word genomics, the study of the human genome, to create fashionable but often unlovely neologisms.

This term refers to the study of our food and how it influences our health through interactions with our personal genetic make-up. It is suggested, in the hand-waving way of futurist commentators in this field, that one day many of our ailments might be treated not with drugs but with special diets. However, the complexity of the factors influencing health — not merely diet and heredity, but also economic and social conditions, culture and behaviour — are likely to make it difficult to isolate the influences of food from all the others.

Though it is often confused with nutritional genomics, from which the name seems to be derived, the latter speciality usually refers instead to the genetic manipulation of plants so that they generate valuable vitamins and minerals to improve diet.

“Nutrigenomics” researchers hope to do away with such blanket generalizations and instead target diets to specific people.

Newsweek, Sep. 2002

Nutrigenomics is the study of how different foods can interact with particular genes to increase the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and some cancers.

United Press International, Jan. 2003

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 1 Mar. 2003

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 1 March 2003.