Daiva Nielsen, Assistant Professor

School of Human Nutrition
McGill University

Recent advances in understanding gene-diet relationships in obesity: opportunities and challenges for precision nutrition

Overweight and obesity are major public health concerns, both in Canada and globally, and are influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Significant progress has been achieved in the identification of genetic determinants of obesity and has highlighted the key role of genetic factors in explaining the heterogeneity of the response to nutritional interventions on various health outcomes. Precision nutrition is an emerging concept in nutrition research aimed at understanding this heterogeneity and developing tailored nutritional interventions based on individuals’ genetic, environmental and lifestyle characteristics. The objective of this symposium is to review recent advances in the genetics of obesity with a focus on better understanding gene-diet relationships in obesity. More specifically, the role of mediation analyses in explaining genetic susceptibility to obesity and the mechanisms by which obesity susceptibility genes can act, for example at the level of adipose tissue, to influence body weight. Globally, the symposium will offer a unique opportunity to discuss the opportunities and challenges offered by precision nutrition in the prevention and treatment of obesity.

Learning objectives: By the end of this session, participants will:

1. Understand the concept of gene-diet interaction in obesity.

2. Understand the differences between the concepts of moderation and mediation and the role of nutrition in mediating genetic susceptibility to obesity.

3. Understand the various pathways by which obesity susceptibility genes may express to lead to obesity.

4. Understand the concept of precision nutrition and its application to prevent disease and promote health.

Speaker/Chair Bio:

Dr. Daiva Nielsen is an Assistant Professor and William Dawson Scholar in the School of Human Nutrition at McGill University. She is also the Scientific Director of the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit at McGill University. Her research program evaluates gene-environment interactions on nutrition and health outcomes, with a focus on neurobehavioural aspects of eating including food reward and sensory perception. Dr. Nielsen’s lab was the first to geotemporally link population biobank data with retail food environment data to study relationships between the retail food environment, nutrition, genetics, and health. Her lab also engages in knowledge translation activities to advance nutrition research and practice, such as through the application of machine learning to organize large-scale uncategorized dietary intake data and use of clinical genetic testing for personalized nutrition.