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J Nutrigenet Nutrigenomics 2008;1:224–231

Public Health Genomics and Genetic Test Evaluation: The Challenge of Conducting Behavioural Research on the Utility of Lifestyle-Genetic Tests

Sanderson S.C.a-c · Wardle J.b · Humphries S.E.c
aSocial and Behavioral Research Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Md., USA; bHealth Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, and cCentre for Cardiovascular Genetics, Department of Medicine, University College London, UK
email Corresponding Author

 goto top of outline Key Words

  • Genetic testing
  • Lifestyle
  • Health behaviours
  • Clinical utility
  • Public health genomics

 goto top of outline Abstract

Human genetics research is increasingly concerned with multifactorial conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, which are influenced not only by genetic but also lifestyle factors such as diet and smoking. Although the results of ‘lifestyle-genetic’ tests using this information could conceivably motivate lifestyle changes in the future, companies are already selling such tests and related lifestyle advice commercially. Some academics and lobby groups have condemned the companies for selling these tests in advance of scientific support. Others are concerned that the tests may not motivate lifestyle improvements, instead causing distress in people receiving adverse test results and complacency in those receiving reassuring results. There is currently no regulatory oversight of genetic test utility, despite consensus in the Public Health Genomics community that clinical utility (including psychological and behavioural impact) of all emerging genetic tests should be evaluated before being introduced for individual use. Clearly, empirical data in this area is much needed, to inform understanding of the potential utility of these tests, and of whether stricter regulation of commercial exploitation is needed. In this article, we review the current situation regarding lifestyle-genetic tests, and discuss the challenges inherent in conducting this kind of behavioural research in the genomics era.

Copyright © 2008 S. Karger AG, Basel

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 goto top of outline Author Contacts

Prof. Steve Humphries
Centre for Cardiovascular Disease, Rayne Building
5 University Street
London WC1E 6JJ (UK)
Tel. +44 207 679 6962, Fax +44 207 679 212, E-Mail

 goto top of outline Article Information

Received: March 3, 2008
Accepted: March 4, 2008
Published online: August 6, 2008
Number of Print Pages : 8
Number of Figures : 0, Number of Tables : 0, Number of References : 56

 goto top of outline Publication Details

Journal of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics

Vol. 1, No. 5, Year 2008 (Cover Date: August 2008)

Journal Editor: Pérusse L. (Quebec, Que.), Vohl M.-C. (Quebec, Que.)
ISSN: 1661–6499 (Print), eISSN: 1661–6758 (Online)

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