While many of us strive to make healthy food choices in order to lose weight or to attain general health benefits, generalised dietary recommendations may not work for everyone. Ever wondered why? The answer is in your DNA. There is an accumulation of evidence that your unique genetic makeup dictates how you breakdown and process foods, what you can and can’t digest and also if you tend to gain weight. Hence, there is a huge variation between individuals in terms of metabolic responses to nutrients, in other words; with regards to nutritional advice; ‘one size does not fit all’. But the good news is, tailored nutrition may be made accessible for us in the near future.
Personalised nutrition is a state-of-the-art concept that suggests healthy food choices and eating habits to match your dietary requirements and personal eating preferences, based on your very own genetic makeup. However, the effectiveness of DNA based dietary advice in enhancing metabolic health is currently under investigation.
In recent years, research has been under way to develop ground-breaking technology that will become the epitome of Personalised Nutrition. This innovative technology uses genetic testing (machine learning) that guides us to make sound dietary choices based on each person’s unique genomic data.
There is a surge in companies that operate in individual genetic analysis. One of these companies provides you with an at-home genetic testing kit, which is then sent to the laboratory for analysis, followed by suggested modifications to an individual’s diet. The analysis also includes gut microbiome data (populations of micro-organisms in the gut), where each of us has a unique microbiome makeup. These populations of gut micro-organisms play a significant role in nutrient metabolism in addition to the general maintenance of health.
Another company is working on a technological innovation that provides personal dietary recommendations whilst you are shopping at the supermarket. It performs genetic testing you when provide a cheek swab that carries your DNA information. The swab is then placed in a designated cartridge where analysis of your metabolism related genes takes place. Finally, your genetic results are transferred to an app on your phone to give you personalised dietary recommendations every time you scan a food item. Results of your nutritional characteristics include; metabolic imbalances (for example, how effectively you metabolise carbohydrates and/or fat), vitamin and mineral requirements, food sensitivities, eating patterns and personal taste. This company claims it can help you decide which food item to choose. According to the company in question, their technology will not put you off buying biscuits all together, but rather recommend a packet of biscuits that is more suited to your personal metabolism, so you can still enjoy a treat knowing your body will respond to it in the best possible way!
But how reliable is this?
As much as it sounds promising for consumers both in health and disease, as well as on a public health level, it's important to highlight that personalised nutrition is a scientific advancement in its early stages. Scientists working in this field of research voiced concerns about over-promising that this kind of emerging technology can convey anticipated benefits for individuals. Based on existing evidence in support of personalised nutrition, it’s fair to say that more robust scientific evidence for the efficacy and cost effectiveness is required from well-designed large-scale intervention studies, something that is still greatly lacking in this field of research.
The current general consensus states that much further research and regulation is needed before personalised nutrition can deliver the expected benefits.
Rhiannon Lambert is a Registered Nutritionist specialising in weight management, eating disorders and sports nutrition. Founder of leading Harley Street clinic Rhitrition, bestselling author of Re-Nourish: A Simple Way To Eat Well and Food For Thought podcast host, Rhiannon’s qualified approach to nutrition and total dedication to her clients’ needs has seen Rhiannon work with some of the world’s most influential people
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