Nutrition Meets Food Science
Nutritionist explaining personalized diet plan for patient during appointment in clinic, copy space

Personalised Nutrition

Life style diseases have reached pandemic proportions across the world. India, more specifically is now having the dubious distinction of having about largest population of individuals with diabetes, cardio vascular disease and other metabolic health problems. While most of us know that these are linked to unhealthy life styles more specifically unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity.

Once affected by these issues, many products have appeared in the market for these lifestyles ailments which consumers have started buying. Consumers/patients usually rely on Googling and self-advocating without going through a professional. They should realise the problems of unsupervised treatments

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In developing field of both preventive and therapeutic dietetics, personalised nutrition is most recent development. There are many ways by which personalised nutrition can be described, one of them being as an approach that uses information on individual characteristics to develop targeted nutritional advice (BMJ 2018, 361). It is now realised that nutrients we consume may affect our genes and also genes can influence the response of body to nutrients. Personalised nutrition looks at this complex interaction of nutrients and genes In daily life terms, just like bespoke clothes, which are tailor-made only for you, this is a nutrition plan which is specifically planned only for you keeping in mind the genetic, phenotypic, medical, nutritional, and other relevant information about the individual that helps to deliver more specific healthy eating guidance.  Outcome is to create tailored diets that matches a person’s unique genetic profile. Personalised nutrition will not only improve the health of an individual but has a potential to prevent society-wide diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer etc.

Nutritionist explaining personalized diet plan for patient during appointment in clinic, copy space

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This dietary approach can be used for individuals, who are healthy, or for the ones who wants to maintain their health and those who are susceptible to disease or have a health issue. In short, personalised nutrition takes into account the genotypic and phenotypic variations to give you a nutrition-based solution.

In the EU-funded Food4Me ( project with 1,200 subjects in 7 European countries personalised nutrition advice was provided at three levels.

  • Person’s Diet only

  • Diet combined with phenotype i.e. measurable traits like physical and biochemical tests like height, weight or cholesterol level etc.

  • Diet combined with both phenotype and genotype e.g. a gene variant associated with weight gain

Each group received dietary advice based on their feedback and test results and there was a control group which did not receive any personalised advice. It was found at the end of the period group receiving personalised advice performed better than the control.

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Usually for such precision nutrition program, there is a lot of information needed of the individual, which includes conducting blood test or test on genetics which could include buccal mucosal swabs etc. These testing are very specific which are done in specific labs only. The reports that are generated from these test requires specific understanding by the health care professional, who will guide the patient / client/ individual to formulate a specific meal plan. Now, this meal plan developed will be extremely specific to this person only.

DNA test swab saliva sample

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The advantage of this program is if there are deficiencies, then the amount of the type of nutrient required (macro or micro) is tailor made so that both excess and deficiency can be eliminated.

Personalised nutrition is in its infancy right now, not only in India but globally. Although it has been known that genes and nutrition is interlinked, personalised nutrition commercialisation has not been very successful especially at the level of analysis of genes. Not only is this expensive but people are reluctant to provide their genetic data for privacy reasons. Thus, most commercial offerings available for personalised nutrition today are based on dietary intake and a combination of dietary and phenotypic data.

It requires more research in terms of how it can be dissipated to individuals without being exclusive. Other problem is most of the test required for this are very expensive, which makes it difficult for a common man to use it. Consumer should be made aware of the risks and benefits of personalised nutrition and how to properly take advantage of this new opening in the nutritional science. It’s a futuristic approach to nutrition and once it starts gaining interest by the masses truly food will become medicine!

Shilpa Joshi

Mumbai Diet and Health Center
National Vice President, Indian Dietetic Association
Hon. Secretary All India Association for Advancing Research in Obesity

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