What is Personalized Nutrition?
The first time I heard the term “personalized nutrition” I thought, “that’s what registered dietitian/nutritionists are trained to do: develop the most appropriate eating plan for each individual person.”
Sequencing the human genome has led to increased knowledge about the potential role individual genetic variations play in health and disease and is fueling the expansion of personalized nutrition. In today’s high-technology world, scientists are starting to envision being able to pinpoint accurate nutrition plans for each person based on their individual genetics, physical activity, sleep habits, microbiome and the metabolome.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health article above,
“precision nutrition assumes that each person may have a different response to specific foods and nutrients, so that the best diet for one individual may look very different than the best diet for another.”
How is this different from typical nutrition therapy today?
Currently nutrition recommendations are based on large epidemiological studies and are designed to apply to the majority of people. You’re familiar with many of them, such as: eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, decrease the amount of red and processed meats we consume to reduce risk of cancer, consume less sodium to manage blood pressure. The dietary reference intakes (DRIs) on food labels are another example of recommendations designed for large population groups rather than individuals. Yet…
these recommendations do not help every person achieve improved health.
You probably know someone who eats an extremely healthy diet yet develops heart disease, or perhaps someone who ignores every health guideline and lives to a healthy old age without chronic disease. It’s believed that personalized nutrition will provide specific, science- based recommendations for each individual person based on their own unique requirements.
Health Science researcher Dr. Nicola Williams, PhD writes that Personalized Nutrition in the Clinic is implemented through the therapeutic diet to optimize health.
“A good example is an allergen-free diet devised to remove immunological triggers. Such diets may need to be peanut-free, gluten-free, tree-nut-free, low FODMAP (fermentable carbohydrates), and casein or dairy-free. Such plans are indicated in the case of known allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities and to identify unknown triggers via elimination. The allergen-free diet is tailored according to individual response, including the type of immune response and other contributing causes such as lack of enzymes or gastrointestinal factors.”
The International Society of Nutrigenetics/Nutrigenomics (ISNN) notes that our genetic profile, which is unique for each person, affects nutrient requirements, metabolism, and how our body responds to general nutrition recommendations.
Where do I start to learn more?
As you work on your goals and health plans, if you find that what you have done in the past “isn’t working” start researching your genetic family history as it relates to health issues and see how you can start to make changes given exercise and food changes that may support some improved outcomes. Additionally, working with a licensed Registered Dietitian who understand Nutrigenomics and Personalized Nutrition is another great option.
About the Author:
Dr. Cindy Cassell, PhD, RD, LD
Dr. Cassell, PhD, RD, LD, completed her undergraduate degree in Exercise Science at Purdue University and completed a Masters in Health Promotion and an Interdisciplinary Doctorate from the University of Cincinnati. She completed her RD Internship at Northern Colorado University and then completed her rotations at Mercy Hospitals in the Greater Cincinnati, Ohio area. Cindy is passionate about health, disease prevention and agriculture. She worked at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in the Cardiovascular Exercise Lab for 8 years. In 2001, Cindy created Nutrition Access, a private practice and corporate healthcare consultant. Within the past fifteen years Cindy has focused her practice on Sports Nutrition and Integrative Medicine.