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Nutrigenomics examines nutrient-gene interactions on a genome-wide scale. Increased dietary fat or higher non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) from starvation-induced mobilisation may enhance hepatic oxidation and decrease esterification of fatty acids by reducing the expression of the fatty acid synthase gene. The key factors are the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs). Dietary carbohydrates — both independently and through insulin effect — influence the transcription of the fatty acid synthase gene. Oleic acid or n-3 fatty acids down-regulate the expression of leptin, fatty acid synthase and lipoprotein lipase in retroperitoneal adipose tissue. Protein-rich diets entail a shortage of mRNA necessary for expression of the fatty acid synthase gene in the adipocytes. Conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs) are activators of PPAR and also induce apoptosis in adipocytes. Altered rumen microflora produces CLAs that are efficient inhibitors of milk fat synthesis in the mammary gland (‘biohydrogenation theory’). Oral zinc or cadmium application enhances transcription rate in the metallothionein gene. Supplemental CLA in pig diets was found to decrease feed intake and body fat by activating PPARγ-responsive genes in the adipose tissue. To prevent obesity and type II diabetes, the direct modulation of gene expression by nutrients is also possible. Nutrigenomics may help in the early diagnosis of genetically determined metabolic disorders and in designing individualised diets for companion animals.

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