Customised diets during pregnancy? A look at nutrigenomic testing

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Ideal during early pregnancy to get an idea of the best way forward regarding diet and nutrition.
Ideal during early pregnancy to get an idea of the best way forward regarding diet and nutrition.

Diet and nutrition take on a whole new meaning when you learn that your body is the home base for a growing baby. 

Eating right suddenly becomes a huge responsibility, given that what moms eat during pregnancy has the potential to affect their baby not only during childhood but long after. 

A 2021 study showing how influential maternal nutrition is found that prenatal supplementation reduces the chances of a child developing heart disease "later in life". 

Another study examining how maternal diet positively impacted children in childhood found that a "quality diet" was linked to "better intelligence".

Also read: Want to try a vegan diet during pregnancy? Here's how to do it safely 

Customised diets

Sticking to the long lists of worst and best foods to consume during pregnancy has been the go-to approach for most moms. For Bernice Venter, a dietician at a local genetic testing company, DNAlysis, a more effective solution lies in nutrigenomic testing. 

Commonly used for disease prevention, weight loss, and fitness, this form of genetic testing has been touted as a predictive tool in identifying how an individual's body is most likely to respond to nutrients.  

It has been described as an "up-and-coming field," allowing for the creation of customised diets to accommodate specific health needs. 


Lifestyle, diet and supplementation

Not to be confused with Noninvasive Prenatal Testing, Venter stresses, which looks at a baby's DNA to determine the risk for genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome, nutrigenomic tests only analyse a mother's DNA scanning for "modifiable risk areas". 

"It will assist in identifying areas that require additional support, for conditions such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, recurrent pregnancy loss, post-partum depression, and preterm birth". 

After testing, lifestyle, diet and supplementation is recommended, Venter says. 

At DNAlysis, this service is available via the GrowBaby test. 

Also see: 'It can happen to anyone': Everything you need to know about gestational diabetes

A routine part of nutritional advice? 

Conducted via a basic blood test, Venter says a nutrigenomic test like GrowBaby is ideal during early pregnancy to get an idea of the best way forward regarding diet and nutrition. 

"It is also suitable for moms who have a history with pregnancy complications and would like to identify areas of focus for targeted intervention in future pregnancies," she says. 

The dietician also stresses the importance of using an accredited expert who will be able to interpret test results and provide "practical interventions". 

Candian dietitian Devon Peart agrees, adding that nutrigenomics may become a routine part of nutritional advice replacing the one-size-fits-all approach. 

However, Peart notes that nutrigenomic testing deals in probabilities only. 

"Keep in mind that the results show your potential for health conditions or how your body will likely respond to nutrients. But just because you're genetically prone to something doesn't mean it's a given". 

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