What is Personalized Nutrition?
The British Medical Journal can describe personalized nutrition as an approach that utilizes information based on an individual's characteristics to develop nutritional advice, products, or services that are targeted to the individual.
Significant for many, this approach can assist individuals towards achieving a dietary change that is long-lasting for a beneficial health goal. This type of concept is also similar to other related terms, including 'precision nutrition' and 'nutrigenomics'.
The overall goal of personalized nutrition includes preserving and increasing health through medical, nutritional, genetic and phenotypic information to deliver specific guidance information to individuals who wish to adopt a healthier eating lifestyle. This is also useful for patients who may be referred to a dietician or a healthcare professional due to their enhanced genetic susceptibility to specific diseases.
This approach can be applied in two large areas, including managing dietary issues for those with specific diseases as well as individuals that require extra nutritional support. An example of nutritional support provided by healthcare services at a mass level includes women going through pregnancy who are provided nutritional support as well as supplements to aid and protect the growth of the fetus. Another example includes those in old age, who may also require extra support due to having a lower immune system and being more susceptible to diseases.
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The use of high-throughput omics approaches, including genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, have become popular in personalized nutrition research that can be used as tools allowing the study of inter-individual responses to various diets. This can be used to gain further information on how an individual's biological system can influence their body's response to external stimuli through food.
Omics technologies can assist with capturing the complex information associated with an individual, analyzing data to gain relevant information and specific biomarkers, designing dietary interventions to be followed by individuals, and monitoring the intervention's efficacy through biomarkers.
Other applications of omics technologies include evaluating the presence of bioactive compounds in food – this can be used in revealing information that can provide mechanistic insights into why a certain type of food and lead to an undesirable response, displayed in Figure 1.
Three key elements have been found in personalized nutrition that requires a multidisciplinary framework, including research, education, and practice. Omics technologies can provide relevant information for all three areas as well as provide information for patient samples related to critical molecules such as genes, proteins, and metabolites, both from the host and its microbiota.
An advantage of this technology is its ability to be applied to many biological samples including blood, serum, saliva, and stool, to detect potential DNA changes, known as nutrigenetics. These samples can also be used to discover epigenetic modifications, as well as changes in mRNA, known as epigenomics, proteins, and metabolites. Overall, the use of omics approaches can provide a final integrated view of the biological variations present within patients and their associated responses to environmental stimuli such as diet – this can be used to personalize effective nutritional strategies.
Both nutrition and diet are significant environmental stimuli that can impact the genome and lead to the development of metabolic diseases. The use of nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics has the ability to assess interactions between genes and the environment that occur on a daily basis through dietary intake. The primary goal of personalized dietary strategies is to provide recommendations that are aware of this interaction.
The use of omics can be revolutionary for the field of personalized nutrition, with this holistic technology being used to provide a comprehensive outlook on a patient for various reasons, including women undergoing pregnancies, the older populations that are more vulnerable to diseases including autoimmune disorders and those with diet-related disorders such as anorexia.
With populations becoming more susceptible to autoimmune disorders, the use of omics may be increasingly required for reduction and prevention. Additionally, with the interaction of genes and diet resulting in possible metabolic diseases, the use of omics may aid in early diagnosis and either treatment or the recommendation of nutritional strategies.
The personalization of nutrition can assist in advancing the field of personalized medicine, demonstrating how a 'one-size-fits-all' approach may not be efficient for the heterogeneity of patients that encompass a range of genomic alterations leading to nutrition-related sensitivities and diseases.
- Braconi, D. et al. (2021) “Personalized nutrition and OMICS Technologies,” Food Technology Disruptions, pp. 37–71. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-821470-1.00007-0.
- Li, K.J. et al. (2022) "How can new personalized nutrition tools improve health?," Frontiers for Young Minds, 10. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3389/frym.2022.738922.
- Ordovas, J.M. and Berciano, S. (2020) "Personalized nutrition and healthy aging," Nutrition Reviews, 78(Supplement_3), pp. 58–65. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuaa102.
- Verma, M. et al. (2018) "Challenges in personalized nutrition and health," Frontiers in Nutrition, 5. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2018.00117.