9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Embodiment, Emotions and Health I Building I, 1E2

Personalised healthy diets and practices of eating. Facing a genetic turn in dietary advise

The bioscientific discourse on food and health is increasingly focusing on what is termed as nutrigenomics, nutrigenetics or nutritional genomics ? a field that studies the interaction between nutrients and gene expression and investigates the role of diet and genetic variation as risk factors for chronic disease. The new field is envisioned to facilitate the development of new foods, services, diets and technologies to prevent, mitigate or cure disease as well as to make possible individually tailored health-optimising diets that are based on the genetic makeup of individuals.

In recent social debates on nutrigenomics attention has increasingly been drawn to the ethical, legal and regulatory issues relating to the study of human genes. However, the applications of nutrigenomics also have a potential to transform the meanings of food and eating as well as to further individualise and medicalise the ways that people eat. So far the study on the social and cultural implications of the new technology on the level of everyday life is still in its infancy.

The aim of this paper is to discuss the possible encounters of nutrigenomics and the everyday practices of eating, and to develop the theoretical basis for an empirical study that focuses on the social and cultural conditions for nutrigenomics in the context of everyday life. The starting point of the paper is the notion of practices of eating as both individual and collective modes of doings and sayings, thought and activities. Through the use of a practice theoretical approach to the study of food and health the paper discusses the potential changes in everyday eating, in lay notions of genes, food and health, and in people?s ways of promoting and maintaining their health that may result as a consequence of nutrigenomic information and its dietary applications.