To address these issues, a workshop was held on June 1 and 2, 2006, at the National Academy of Sciences. The workshop included a keynote presentation to provide policy context and challenges, and presentations that were structured around three focus sessions: human genetic variation, epigenetics, and systems biology (see Chapters 1 to 3, respectively). A fourth session (Chapter 4) presented discussions on the implications of nutrigenomics for the future of nutrition science research. The workshop agenda is contained in Appendix A, and Appendix B lists the names and affiliations of the workshop presenters.
Numerous themes emerged from the workshop presentations. First, nutrigenomics is a complex field because it addresses issues related to multigenetic traits that can be modified by a number of nutritional and other environmental factors. For example, more than 25,000 bioactive food components have been identified, although their modes of interaction and duration of activity are among many questions about these compounds that are still unanswered. Such complexity presents a challenge to the field; and the ensuing research opportunities will require cooperative work among scientific disciplines and across government, academic, and industrial centers, as well as adequate funding, to be realized.
Additionally, the ability to stretch the limits of conventional research methodologies afforded by new genetic and genomic applications at the level of the individual opens the door to a wealth of potential benefits to areas such as disease prevention and wellness, bearing in mind the necessity of ethical safeguards. This potential, however, must be wisely exploited to avoid the pitfalls of overpromising research results and prematurely setting unrealistic expectations for beneficial outcomes. Finally, careful and rigorous research must be employed to optimize outcomes and assure acceptance by the scientific community. In summary, nutrition science is uniquely poised to serve as the crossroads for many disciplines and, using genomics tools, can bring this knowledge together to better understand and address diet-related chronic diseases and molecular responses to dietary factors.