The success of the Human Genome Project and the powerful tools of molecular biology have ushered in a new era of medicine and nutrition. The pharmaceutical industry expects to leverage data from the Human Genome Project to develop new drugs based on the genetic constitution of the patient; likewise, the food industry has an opportunity to position food and nutritional bioactives to promote health and prevent disease based on the genetic constitution of the consumer. This new era of molecular nutrition - that is, nutrient-gene interaction - can unfold in dichotomous directions. One could focus on the effects of nutrients or food bioactives on the regulation of gene expression (ie, nutrigenomics) or on the impact of variations in gene structure on one's response to nutrients or food bioactives (ie, nutrigenetics). The challenge of the public health nutritionist will be to balance the needs of the community with those of the individual. In this regard, the excitement and promise of molecular nutrition should be tempered by the need to validate the scientific data emerging from the disciplines of nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics and the need to educate practitioners and communicate the value to consumers - and to do it all within a socially responsible bioethical framework.
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