Whether you’re a recent grad with a BS or MS in Nutritional Science or already working in the field, there are changes coming that can affect your career as a nutritionist. These changes will determine what you need to learn, how you’ll practice nutrition, and essentially how and where you’ll be working in the next few years.
One such change is Nutrigenomics. As you’ve probably heard, this branch of nutrition science studies the effects of foods on one’s genetic makeup. It focuses on the molecular-level interactions between nutrients and other dietary bioactives with the genome. The goal is to optimize nutrition with respect to a patient’s genotype and to create personalized diets to improve overall health and well-being.
If you’re pursuing a career in nutrition or dietetics, and seek to incorporate nutrigenomics in your preventive health care offerings, there are some things you should know about this evolving new science.
Lisa Cianfrini, MSc, RD, manager of dietitian services and business development with Nutrigenomix, notes that nutrigenomics testing can be effective in fine tuning a patient’s nutritional intake to his or her unique genetic profile. Before you create a personalized diet to reach a patient’s health goals, you’ll need a DNA testing kit. Patient samples are then lab analyzed, providing you with a detailed report you can use to create a personalized diet and meal plan tailored to your patient’s gene variations. Nutrigenomics can be part of a disease prevention program that serves to help improve a patient’s overall health. It can do so without an over reliance on supplements or specialized food products. Nutrigenomix offers a training guide with their starter package. It includes scientific references and information on patient counseling, test kits, and other useful resources.
So what’s the career outlook for Nutrigenomics? Hartbeat believes the greatest opportunities reside with a small but knowledgeable group of Core Wellness Consumers. These “buyers” of Nutrigenomics services are into wellness and nutrition and more concerned with prevention rather than treatment. They believe in the old adage, you are what you eat. They’re eager consumers of diet and nutrition as it relates to healthier living.
To ride the crest of this emerging new career wave in nutrition, you’ll need some advanced training. Besides having a solid base in human biology, food and nutrition science (and related research), you’ll need clinical nutrition experience. You’ll also need to be thoroughly grounded in genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, and nutritional genomics. Finally, you’ll need to develop your counseling skills if you hope to advise those outside of the Core Wellness group mentioned above. In the not too distant future, Nutrigenomics may be integrated into a variety of health-related fields and into the practices of virtually all health professionals.
Nutrigenomics is making its way into nutrition. It will pay you in the long run to learn about this new field—whether you’re just starting out or already in practice.
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