We know now that there is no magic bullet for weight loss, much as we’d like one. With exercise or diet, what works like a charm for one person often shows moderate to zero results in another. One can’t help but wonder, then, if it is worth expending energy and willpower to stick to something that’s just not working.
Everyone would benefit from a more customized, targeted, bespoke approach towards weight loss. It is time to bring personalized nutrition (PN) to the frontlines in the battle of the bulge.
Just what is Personalized Nutrition?
At the heart of personalized nutrition is the fact that we are all different in terms of how we metabolize certain foodsーor not. This individuality, firmly rooted in our genes, lays the foundation for personalized nutrition as a field of research and practice to prevent and treat disease, to optimize health and manage weight.
These are the various ways in which we are different:
- Our Biochemistry
- Our Metabolism
- Our Genetics
- Our Microbiota (gut flora)
A PN approach to weight loss has to take all of these factors into account.
The need for a standard approach
PN as an emerging field has been described in a variety of ways. You may have heard terms like “precision nutrition,” “individualized nutrition,” and “nutritional genomics.” They have similar, sometimes overlapping, meanings. Therefore, experts are laying down the case for a standardized approach to PN, based on the following synergistic elements:
- PN science + data (PN research)
- PN professional education + training
- PN guidance + therapeutics.
The “Omics” Sciences that drive Personalized Nutrition
The “omics” sciences: nutritional genomics (a.k.a nutrigenomics), microbiomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, proteomics basically drive the key elements of PN research, education and practice.
In particular, nutrigenomics and microbiomics drive the immediate, practical application in devising weight loss strategies both from an individual as well as public health perspective:
Nutritional genomics is a specific area of research exploring the interaction between genes, nutritional components, and health outcomes. Understanding this in a broad as well as deep sense can help doctors and nutrition experts devise personalized weight loss approaches, particularly within certain populations with similar traits. This has great implications for public health and the obesity epidemic.
Microbiomics studies the interaction of food and nutrients with the highly individualized microbial communities residing in the gut. The gut flora not only influences digestion and assimilation but also shapes human metabolism by contributing their own enzymes and byproducts.
It is this interplay of food and nutrients with the microbiome and our genetic material that influences the systems and biological processes that lead us either toward health and immunity or dysfunction and disease. PN seeks to tip the balance in favor of a healthy body and a full, active life.
Personalized Nutrition for chronic diseases
The gut microbiome is now found to have a say in modulating immune function, and to some extent, brain function. Interactions between food, genomics, and microbiomics could well become the new challenge for the future in preventive medicine, according to experts.
The current model for treating chronic disease mostly targets acute conditions and “single-agent” causes of illness with single-agent pharmacologic treatments. But the evidence is piling up now that certain chronic diseases are extremely complex and multifactorial, and the treatment approach needs to be modified as such.
These diseases can have multiple causes and impact multiple biological systems. PN is set to play an important role in explaining these interactions and developing tools and strategies for the prevention, management, and treatment of a whole range of chronic diseases.
Who can benefit from Personalized Nutrition
Well, basically, everyone. But particularly those who are struggling with their weight or living with a chronic illness.
Standardized PN will certainly equip healthcare professionals to apply these strategies in a variety of clinical settings.
For instance, it is established that poor nutrition plays a major role in cardiometabolic conditions and diet-related cancers. Early life exposures to poor nutrition can set up children for long-term health effects including obesity, metabolic conditions, and cardiovascular diseases.
As genetic testing becomes more affordable, accessible, and widespread, genetic reports that include nutritional recommendations based on an individual’s genome can help fine-tune dietary guidelines.
Therapeutic diets can be designed to exclude allergens, fire up metabolism, reduce the incidence and consequences of long-term hyperglycemia as well as other cardio-metabolic processes and conditions.
Personalized nutrition at all stages of life, starting with the earliest, can save a large amount in medical costs over the long term. It can boost productivity and greatly enhance the quality of life.