Customize and categorise

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Related tags: Nutrition

A one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition recommendations may soon
be outdated, argues a nutritionist in a new article that supports
the supplement industry's increasing moves to target products at
specific population and disease categories.

The report, 'Individualization of Nutrition Recommendations and Food Choices', and published in Nutrition Today​ (38:6: 225-231), a journal for nutritionists and scientists, discusses how a person's biological make-up coupled with personal lifestyle choices contribute to nutrition recommendations. The trend will also drive consumer choices towards products targeted for their needs.

"Health professionals have been using family history of disease to determine their patients' risks for genetic diseases for years. Now, the science is getting to be such that health professionals will be able to recommend specific foods and nutrients for optimal health based on detailed patient profiles,"​ said author Lori Hoolihan.

However she cautioned that key issues need to be resolved before customization is embraced by all. Last year researchers warned that creating customized diets based on people's genetic make-up will create ethical and legal challenges with serious implications for the scientific and medical communities.

Until possible solutions are found, the trend is more likely to bring about change in smaller steps, argues Hoolihan. Segmenting the population into smaller groups beyond gender and age will provide one level of customization. For example, a 35-year old man who has a family history of hypertension may lower his risk of developing the condition by following a diet rich in low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables. Another 35-year old man who has a slow metabolism and low activity level may be advised to reduce calorie intake to prevent unwanted weight gain.

Still another layer of customization may be reached by segmenting population groups by ethnicity and socioeconomic factors. Some in the health community are concerned that the technique will be unfairly available to the 'haves' and not the 'have-nots'. Others see an opportunity to provide priority population groups with much-needed, tailored nutrition recommendations, which over time will lead to a change in how nutrition assessments and advice are provided to the entire population.

"The possibilities are endless; yet the health professional community, food industry and public health community have more planning and research to complete before detailed recommendations can be made with confidence and accuracy. In the meantime, those in the health and nutrition arena need to be open to the change and start making adjustments one step at a time,"​ concluded Hoolihan.

Related topics: Research

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