On today’s Bullseye it’s all about personalization. For about 5 years now, we’ve been talking about personalized nutrition – in particular those DNA kits that have become mainstream, that can lead us to better health. Personalized nutrition can be best explained in 3 parts. Nutrigenetics looks at how genes influence the way your body uses the nutrients you eat. Which means even if you’re getting enough of a certain nutrient, your body may not be able to process it well. Nutrigenomics examines how the foods you eat can change how your genes are expressed. “Like for obesity, you may have a certain set of genes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll express them,” says James Marcum, PhD, of Baylor University, author of a review of literature on nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics. “But if you eat food that expresses those genes, it leads to obesity.”
And then there’s microbiome research which focuses on how the microbes in your gut affect your health. Gut health has made the headlines in the past couple of years and has quickly become one of the leading marketing claims we are seeing on many packages. Since everyone’s microbiome is also different so is each person’s ideal diet. But the science is new. “Each one of us is so complex, we’ve just scratched the surface,” says Marcum. “There’s more we don’t know than we do at this stage of the game. We’re seeing that the more you appreciate how complex the system is, the more you realize it may be hard to predict how a person is going to respond.” The National Institutes of Health has begun a major research project focused on precision nutrition. Called Nutrition for Precision Health (NPH), the program is awarding $170 million over 5 years to fund studies at six centers across the country. Researchers are recruiting a diverse pool of 10,000 people to develop algorithms that can predict how your body responds to various parts of your diet. They’ll be looking at the diet, genetics, microbiome, physiology, and environment of the people in the study, along with other things.
After the 5-year studies gather enough information to develop accurate algorithms, the project will spend another 5 years testing how reliable they are. In the meantime, other non DNA companies want to get in the personalized nutrition business as well.