How do we get to precision nutrition?

December 10, 2018

Can we make the leap from counting caloric intake to measuring nutritional intake to personalized nutritional guidelines?  The answer is yes!  We are well on our way to the era of precision nutrition.  Currently, dietary recommendations are made for general populations of healthy individuals.  Using a combination of genome sequencing, systems biology, and real time biomarkers, we will be able to develop custom dietary recommendations.

The genetic information plays a critical role.  Our DNA is as unique as our fingerprints.  The differences can significantly impact how each of us processes different foods.  The genetic differences are often, but not always, related to ethnicity.  A diet that keeps your cholesterol levels in the healthy range will not work for everyone.  As scientists learn more about how different genetic variations affect how foods are digested and metabolized, we’ll move closer to personalized dietary recommendations.

Systems biology is another key piece to this complex puzzle.  Systems biology uses computational methods to analyze and model complex networks, like how multiple genetic pathways work together to regulate choline.

Biomarkers add power to systems biology studies.  They are indicators of the effects of genetic variations.  Biomarkers are measurements such as blood pressure or the presence of a specific protein in urine.  It may sound simplistic, but it is incredibly complex as biology is a puzzle to unravel one knot at a time.  One powerful tool that will allow us to unravel a few knots is on its way!  Organizations are building smartphone compatible microfluidic devices that will allow you to track certain biomarkers in real-time.  This information will be incredibly insightful when combined with information on genetic variations and diet to further our understanding of how nutrition affects the body.

All of this information (biomarkers, genetic variations, and diet) will take some time to analyze and distill into actionable guidelines.  The goal is that those new guidelines will be more accurate for each individual and take us into the era of precision nutrition.  They will take the guess work out of finding the right diet for the healthiest you.  You won’t have to hop from one diet fad to the next to find the one that works for you.  Until we reach the point of personalized dietary guidelines, there is the ETP food coaching program to help you navigate through the world of nutrition and dietary changes.

If you’re interested in the scientific details, check out the following scholarly journal article.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Food and Nutrition Board; Food Forum. Nutrigenomics and the Future of Nutrition: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2018 Jul 25, 61 – 84.

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