Genetic diet tests 'of limited use'

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The Independent Online

Commercial pressures are leading to the "medicalisation" of food, with companies making unfounded claims about the power of targeting people's diet according to their genetic make-up, it was claimed.

Helen Wallace, of Genewatch UK, said that some companies were already selling genetic tests on the internet, combined with dietary advice or supplements. "Genetic tests and functional foods are targeted at the wealthy and do nothing to help poorer people who are at higher risk of heart disease and diabetes," Dr Wallace told the British Association.

"The usefulness of targeting dietary advice based on genetic make-up is also limited because genes are poor predictors of an individual's risk."

Since the publication of the human genome, there has been an exposion of interest in how genes and diet may interact. "Although some nutrigenomic research may be useful, with some exceptions, genetic differences appear to make only small differences to a person's risk of diet-related disease and very little difference to the foods they should eat," said Dr Wallace.

Such gimmicks can confuse people about healthy eating with potentially harmful consequences, yet the Government has so far failed to take any action to regulate genetic tests to ensure that claims do not mislead people, she said.