The Nutrition Research Institute (NRI) welcomes visiting scholar Rodrigo San Cristobal from the Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, who is working with NRI faculty member Martin Kohlmeier, M.D., Ph.D., to develop a certification program in nutrigenetics for licensed healthcare professionals.

rodrigoSan Cristobal is a Ph.D. student in the Nutrition Research Centre of the University of Navarra. His thesis, under the direction of Alfredo Martínez, M.D., Ph.D., and Santiago Navas-Carretero, Ph.D., is on personalized nutrition within the framework of the Food4Me project, a human intervention study performed on a large cohort across seven countries, through an online platform, to develop new scientific tools for the exploration of dietary, phenotypic and genotypic data in personalized nutrition. Within these global objectives, San Cristobal’s thesis aims to assess the effects of certain gene variations on the risk of becoming overweight or obese, study gene-nutrient interactions and their relationship to metabolic disorders, develop a health index for a nutritional screening tool, and evaluate changes in the methylation status related to changes in eating habits.

His research makes San Cristobal particularly qualified to work with Kohlmeier, a renowned nutrition educator, in creating coursework for the as-yet-unnamed nutrigenetics certification program. Sponsored by the International Society of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics, this course is being designed to meet increasing demands on healthcare professionals, including dietitians and pharmacists, to be able to guide patients and clients in making appropriate food choices for optimal health. Students will learn about the interactions between genes and nutrients and why the one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition recommendations does not work. The 120-hour program will be offered online with a required in-person training component and a culminating exam.

Students of the course must be members of the International Society of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics, the only society in the world whose purpose is to understand the role of genetic variation and individual dietary response, and the role of nutrients in gene expression. Kohlmeier is the current secretary and treasurer of ISNN.

Because the training program will be offered online to healthcare professionals globally, about 10 percent of the information will focus on local and regional variations in genetics and diet. The course is expected to be available in late 2016.