Your dietary intake plays a significant role in health maintenance and disease prevention. The CDC specifies the benefits of healthy eating for adults in terms of improving one’s weight, immune system, bone and muscle growth, and overall life expectancy. However, one of the biggest challenges regarding diets is figuring out a plan that works for your daily needs and lifestyle. Diet fads and trends come and go, and people can also lose motivation to stay disciplined and make necessary changes.
It’s in this context that precision nutrition, more commonly referred to as personalized nutrition, has emerged to help everyone achieve the diet and health status to which they individually aspire. This evidence-based approach focuses on people’s responses to specific foods and nutrients based on their genetics, health history, behaviors, and preferences. Learning about personalized nutrition can point us to why typical diets fail, the benefits of tailored dietary suggestions, and how we can get started on making healthy diets more effective and lasting.
Why popular diets fail
Many research studies on nutrition provide information on why popular diets cannot account for everyone’s healthy weight loss and maintenance. An article from CNBC on diet advice emphasizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to healthy eating. It cites a study where participants were given the same meals and had their blood tested after every meal to measure any changes in their sugar, insulin, or fat.
Among the key findings was that aside from DNA, gut microbes can contribute to substantial variations in individual responses to food—even when the meals were the same and comparisons were made between identical twins. The same study was cited in a previous article discussing the myth of the Perfect Diet. Counting calories is not the most optimal way to achieve fitness. Beyond gut microbes and blood-based biomarkers, lifestyle factors like sleep cycles and meal schedules can affect weight gain. For women, in particular, metabolic changes can even be attributed to hormonal transformations during menopause.
Benefits of personalized nutrition
While personalized nutrition remains an emerging area of nutrition research, its main benefit lies in giving individuals more independence and control over their dietary intake. In contrast to restrictive diets that only focus on specific nutrients, personalized nutrition can be sustainable while ensuring your body meets its nutritional needs.
It can also be integrated with disease treatment to make it more patient-centric and, thus, more effective. For example, the management of diagnosis or risk factors for diabetes cannot rely on finding the ideal ratio of calories from macronutrients. Personalized nutrition can offer individualized dietary advice and recommendations based on the patient’s genomic sequences, insulin sensitivity, and gut microbiome.
How to get started with personalized nutrition
The role of technology in personalized nutrition cannot be overlooked. From the diagnostic phase, dried blood spot sampling can aid in assessing an individual’s physical and metabolic profile. Meanwhile, WeightWatchers focuses on personal weight loss plans, which can be conveniently accessed, documented, and monitored through a mobile app. Unlike typical diets that rely on calorie counts and deprive you of your favorite foods, its Points system considers each food’s nutritional value to guide you toward the right choices and portion sizes. You can get a tailored food plan guaranteed to last by simply answering a questionnaire.
Self-measurement tools can also come in the form of wearable technology, like glucose monitors that track which specific food items cause a spike in blood sugar levels without having to prick your finger for a blood sample. However, an ABC News article by Dr. Nate Wood warns against precision nutrition technology that most companies offer, such as at-home testing kits for the microbiome. Personalized or precise nutrition is still evolving, so it is important to wait for conclusive research findings before adopting relatively new technologies.