Interest in personalized nutrition is growing as we realize the importance of individual factors in optimizing nutrition, health, and performance. The industry follows science by providing advanced tests such as at-home blood, microbiota, food tolerance, DNA, and even metabolic profiling for individuals. In this article, you'll find out what personalized nutrition is, learn how it is created, and explore the available tests and services.
Personalized nutrition involves tailoring dietary plans to individual factors, from genetics to lifestyle, guided by evidence-based methods, healthcare professionals, and technology.
Personalized nutrition can improve health by helping to prevent diseases, more effectively manage chronic conditions, optimize athletic performance, enhance overall quality of life, and more.
You can access a personalized nutrition program by consulting qualified healthcare professionals or trying commercial personalized nutrition programs that offer research-backed tests, services, and products.
Before using commercial personalized nutrition programs, consult your healthcare provider if you have any specific conditions or diseases.
What is personalized nutrition?
Personalized nutrition does not have a set definition; thus, it's open to interpretation to some extent. An inclusive definition could be nutritional planning at the individual level, considering numerous factors from genetics to lifestyle, with the help of healthcare professionals, science, and evidence-based methods to achieve health benefits.
Why is personalized nutrition important?
Although authoritative sources establish healthy and balanced nutrition guidelines for both general and specific populations, individual factors influence your optimal nutrition, health, and performance. Some of these factors are your cultural background, environment, work life, physical activity level, lifestyle habits, financial status, mental health, and general health.
Considering countless determinants, creating one nutrition plan that meets everybody's nutritional needs, requirements, and goals is impossible. Thus, a personalized approach is needed to create a nutrition plan that meets individuals needs.
The potential of personalized nutrition
Areas that personalized nutrition can cover are still being explored and expanding. Personalized nutrition can help:
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are chronic diseases not directly transmitted from person to person, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. They are common; in fact, they were responsible for 63% of global deaths in 2019. Thus, disease prevention is a crucial aspect of public health policy.
As data shows, chronic diseases can negatively impact a patient's health, life, and finances. Personalized nutrition can be one of the effective preventive methods since the impact of nutrition on chronic diseases is established.
Personalized nutrition can help prevent chronic diseases by supporting weight management, assessing nutritional risks, and improving nutrition and lifestyle accordingly.
Managing chronic conditions
If the prevention stage is closed, personalized nutrition can greatly support health by allowing better management of chronic conditions.
For example, if diabetes patients can effectively manage blood glucose levels through proper nutrition and lifestyle changes, their life quality and expectancy increase because the risk of developing diabetes complications decreases.
Personalized nutrition plays a vital role in helping those with diabetes optimize their nutrition. This is achieved through the use of blood glucose monitors and specialized apps designed to create personalized nutrition and exercise plans based on individual glucose data.
A similar diagram is applicable to other chronic diseases. First, there are tools to check individual data, such as biomarkers, metabolites, DNA tests, metabolic profiling, and so on. Then, personal data is typically processed through an algorithm, which is used to create personalized nutrition programs. The data can also be analyzed by a qualified healthcare professional, who then manually creates a personalized nutrition program.
Optimizing and enhancing sports performance
Sports and nutrition are inseparable. How athletes fuel their bodies directly affects their health and performance. Personalized nutrition can enhance sports performance while maintaining good health. This can be achieved by evaluating an individual's response to foods and their specific nutrient requirements, enabling the optimization of nutrition and supplement usage on a daily basis and during athletic performance.
For example, caffeine is widely used in sports nutrition and one of the supplements whose efficacy is approved by authoritative sports nutrition organizations. However, caffeine's effects on performance are highly individualistic. Certain genes affect caffeine metabolism, sensitivity, and response. Thus, assessing genes related to caffeine can guide the use of caffeine supplements to enhance performance.
Other areas where personalized nutrition can bring improvements include, but are not limited to:
- Longevity. Personalized nutrition can promote longevity by tailoring nutrition plans to consider an individual's metabolic profile and risk of diseases. Therefore, it can help individuals make choices that reduce the risk of chronic diseases, support healthy aging, and extend their lifespan.
- Women's health. Women have been underrepresented in research, which brings a lack of information about women's bodies and health. For women, personalized nutrition can address specific health needs throughout their life stages, from menstrual health and pregnancy to menopause. It can help optimize nutrient intake, hormonal balance, and overall well-being.
- Cognitive and mental health. Age-related neurological diseases are rising, and since treatment following late diagnosis is limited, early diagnosis and prevention strategies are crucial. Emerging tests and methods are used in personalized nutrition to optimize brain health. Also, companies offer tests and plans to improve mental clarity and mood stability by optimizing nutrients such as certain amino acids.
Exploring the rapidly evolving landscape of personalized nutrition
Many commercial personalized nutrition programs out there provide consumers with research and data-driven tests, services, and products to close the gap in their nutrition to reach optimal health.
Tests include but certainly not limited to:
- Microbiota analysis
- DNA profiling
- Food intolerance assessments
- Metabolic profiling
- Fitness and performance tests
- Specific nutrient and compound panels
- Hormone level assessments
- Allergy testing
Services include but are not limited to:
- Algorithms that provide real-time nutritional suggestions based on individual data
- Mobile applications that connect with wearables
- Tailored supplement design services
- Customized meal planning services
- Virtual consultations with dietitians
- Nutritional coaching
- Genetic counseling
Despite many methods being available, some are more accessible than others. Keep in mind that the personalized nutrition landscape still has room to improve in certain areas, including the standardization of methods and systems, acceptance, and accessibility.
You can explore what personalized nutrition can offer by visiting a healthcare provider and dietitian or trying services from reputable companies. You can look for science-led and transparent companies that use validated tests and methods while keeping your data private. However, it's still best to consult your healthcare provider if you have any specific conditions or diseases, as scams are out there!
- Advances in Nutrition. Perspective: Guiding Principles for the Implementation of Personalized Nutrition Approaches That Benefit Health and Function.
- World Health Organization. World health statistics 2023: monitoring health for the SDGs, sustainable development goals.
- CDC. Health and Economic Benefits of Diabetes Interventions.
- Frontiers in Nutrition. Sport Nutrigenomics: Personalized Nutrition for Athletic Performance.