September 2019 Question of the Month: Personalized Nutrition

Does the future of nutrition have a more personal touch?

By IDEA Authors
Aug 20, 2019

When it comes to dishing out nutrition advice, most recommendations are generalized to the population as a whole. But a number of companies have jumped into the personalized nutrition space and are marketing themselves as being able to help individuals overcome poor dieting success and boost health measures with eating plans tailored to their DNA, metabolism or microbiome. For instance, these companies propose that genetic makeup may affect how much success a person will have on a low-carb diet or that levels of certain bacteria in the digestive tract may dictate how dietary fats are metabolized. The businesses state that fine-tuning your nutrition—based on your test results—will help you achieve health goals, such as losing weight and feeling more energized.

In general, what happens is that you purchase an at-home test kit and send a finger-prick of blood, a stool sample or a swab of saliva from your cheek. You then receive food and supplement suggestions based on your unique food sensitivities, gene variants or other biomarkers, such as levels of certain gut bugs, inflammatory markers and omega-3 fats.

While personalized eating plans based on biodata could turn out to be nutrition’s holy grail, the science is still in its infancy, and some research suggests that an overall high-quality diet can trump our genes when it comes to achieving and maintaining healthier body weight. For instance, one recent study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that frequent intakes of the omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish can partially override someone’s genetic tendency to gain body fat more easily than others.

In this era of personalized nutrition, do you believe that people can benefit from these services? Would you recommend them to clients? Or do you think the sales pitch has outpaced the science and people should focus on eating healthfully based on generalized guidelines? Would you take a test to obtain an individualized eating plan?

Send your answers to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected]

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