The research team suggests future personalised nutrition approaches could target intake of these discretionary foods via food-based messaging that considers the eating context of the foods consumed.
“For example, if salt intake was identified as a top nutrient to change and meat-based dishes were the main contributing food sources, then a message may include, “Reduce your intake of processed meats and pies; swap salami, ham and bacon for turkey or beef,”” suggests the team led by Katherine Livingstone, NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow at Deakin University.
The team, which included colleagues from Newcastle University and the University of Navarra, began enrolling 1,607 adults from seven European countries into the six-month study.
Diet, phenotype and genotype groups
Adults were randomised into either a control group, or one of three personalised nutrition groups (based on diet [L1], phenotype [L2] and genotype [L3]).
The control group was given usual dietary advice. For example, “eat at least five serves of fruit and vegetables each day.”
Meanwhile, the L1 group received advice based on what they ate. For example, for someone eating a lot of salty meat products, we told them to reduce their intake of processed meats and pies, and swap salami and bacon for turkey or beef.
The L2 group received advice based on diet and body measurements. For example, if someone had high waist circumference and cholesterol levels, and was snacking on biscuits and chocolate.
The team would then advise them they were carrying too much weight around their middle and had high cholesterol levels so would benefit from snacking on fruit and healthy fats, such as nuts, instead.
The L3 group received advice based on their diet, body measurements and genetic information. For example, if someone had a genetic risk of high cholesterol, and was eating lots of salty meat products.
The team would inform them they had a genetic variation and would benefit from maintaining a healthy intake of saturated fat and normal cholesterol levels.
The suggestion here would be to swap processed meats (e.g. burgers and sausages), for lean meats or skinless chicken breast.
Findings revealed that personalised nutrition advice reduced the contribution of discretionary foods and beverages to intake of total energy and of fat, sugar and salt.
Importantly, apart from sugars, there was only evidence of an intervention effect when the discretionary classification included all high fat, added sugars and salt foods.
“Our results show personalised dietary advice can support people to eat less junk food,” says Dr Livingstone.
“This should have important implications for how researchers and health-care professionals design healthy eating strategies moving forward.
“It’s important to note our sample was made up of volunteers. So, they may be more health-conscious and motivated to improve their dietary habits than the general population,” she adds.
“We need research in more diverse population groups, including young males and people experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage. This will be important for understanding whether personalised nutrition advice can benefit everyone.”
Source: International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity
Published online: doi.org/10.1186/s12966-021-01136-5
“Personalised nutrition advice reduces intake of discretionary foods and beverages: findings from the Food4Me randomised controlled trial.”
Authors: Katherine Livingstone et al.