« Nutritional (epi)genomics: (re)considering the food-health relationships by connecting social, biomedical and life sciences »
Tristan Fournier (CNRS, Iris) and Jean-Pierre Poulain (UT2J, CERTOP)
Natures Sciences Sociétés, 25, 2, 111-121 (2017)
This article investigates, from a sociological perspective, the emergence of nutritional (epi)genomics, a field of research that has emerged from the Human Genome Project and whose aim is to renew the diagnosis, prevention and management of food-related chronic pathologies. By identifying more precisely the genetic and epigenetic risk factors at the individual level, this would indeed lead to the development of personalized nutrition. As such, it is often presented as a scientific revolution. The first part of the paper defines this research field by discussing its main scientific issues and presenting its medical applications that consist in biotechnology which has been available on the market over the past decade (nutrigenetic testing) as well as a public health program which is currently being drawn up (the “first 1000 days” initiative). Then it focuses on its social, ethical and political consequences as it could induce new forms of responsibility at the individual, intergenerational and political scales, and also heighten the medicalization of food and, consequently, its individualization. Finally the paper tries to understand to what extent the field of nutritional (epi)genomics may contribute to (re)consider the dialogue between social, biomedical and life sciences regarding the food and health relationships.
Key words: environment / epigenetics / health / interdisciplinarity / nutrigenomics