SPECIAL REPORT: The Rise of the Personalized Nutrition Trend

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15 Nov 2016 --- Increasing numbers of studies suggest that nutrition guidelines don’t provide the “one size fits all” solution that has been promoted to consumers over the decades. In fact, research indicates that while one food or nutrient type may benefit the health of one person, it could be detrimental to the next.

Yet, the idea that consumers could benefit from personalized nutritional guidelines provides the food industry with a bountiful opportunity, both in terms of food products and marketing. It could also lead the way in curbing the current worldwide obesity epidemic.

Innova Market Insights listed “Body in Tune,” as one of its key trends for 2017, and according to the market researcher: “consumers are increasingly personalizing their own nutrition intake, making food choices based around what they think will make them feel better.”

“They are also experimenting with free from products and specific diets like paleo and low FODMAP. At the same time, consumers continue to increase their intake of foods and beverages with ingredients that they consider to be healthy, like protein and probiotics.”

So, today NutritionInsight looks at the potential flaws in current nutritional guidelines, consumer demand for personalized nutrition solutions, and how the food industry is starting to respond to this budding new market.

 

The Potential Flaws in Today’s Nutrition Guidelines

According to the British Nutrition Foundation, the requirements for energy and nutrients are more or less the same for 19 to 50 year olds, except during pregnancy or lactation, with variances according to gender and activity levels.

Infants, children and the elderly population (also known in the food industry as ‘silvers’) have their own nutritional guidelines, which are also based on lifestyle aspects as well as age related needs.

However, nutritional experts have criticized this “blanket approach” to nutritional advice as being insufficient, suggesting it targets too few demographic groups, and fails to consider individual’s surroundings, habits, and DNA, along with many other complex contributing factors.

Alfredo Martínez, MD, PhD, President of the International Society of Nutrigenetics / Nutrigenomics (ISNN) thinks for this reason, personalized, or precision nutrition is the future of nutrition telling NutritionInsight: “Precision nutrition is the stronger global trend nowadays.”

He adds, “This new concept of nutrition considers not only the personal inheritance, but also the cultural and family aspects, their lifestyle, the previous clinical history as well as likes and dislikes, hypersensitivity or intolerance to certain foods, regular physical activity, the perinatal nutrition and epigenetics, when designing dietary advice and matching the nutritional needs of each person.”

 

The Rise of DNA Diets and Consumer Demand

The idea that our DNA defines what nutrition we need is not a new one, but is one that is beginning to become commercially accessible to the general consumer.

Examples of companies providing this service include DNAFit, which, launched in 2013 claimed to be the first company to provide fitness and nutrition to the general public, offering bespoke diet plans for adults “to boost your mood, help you lose weight and make you feel fitter.”

Another is My-gene-diet, who focuses on identifying if someone has the fat mass and obesity-associated protein (FTO gene), along with 11 other genes associated with weight gain and the inability to feel full.

Dr Trevor Jarman, CEO of My-Gene-diet, explained to NutritionInsight: “Small variations in the genes we inherit from our parents can have a massive impact on our eating habits and weight management.”

“Testing for these variations not only helps explain why an individual may struggle with their weight, it can also indicate the type of diet which will suit them best.”

“With some variations, saturated fats are particularly bad news and a diet higher in healthier, complex carbs works best.”

He added, “For other variations a higher carb diet may contribute towards the accumulation of abdominal fat so a diet higher in protein and healthy, essential fats is recommended.”

 

The Food Industry’s Take on Personalized Nutrition

With consumers more aware of the DNA diet trend than ever, and increasing numbers of companies starting to offer the service, it was only so long until a big player in the food industry would make a move into the space.

The recent investment by Campbell’s Soup into “Habit”, an app that devises meal plans based on the app users DNA, was exactly that.

As the sole investors in the mobile phone application Campbell’s has marked a real shift in its focus, something that is the rest of the food industry is sure to be keeping a close eye on.

Talking with NutritionInsight Denise Morrison, Campbell’s President and Chief Executive Officer said, “The entire food industry is being transformed by the fusion of food, well-being and technology.”

“Habit is well positioned in this wired for well-being space and poised to lead the personalized nutrition category.”

“Campbell’s investment is part of our broader efforts to define the future of food, which requires fresh thinking, new models of innovation, smart external development and venture investing to create an ecosystem of innovative partners.”

Neil Grimmer, founder & CEO of Habit, explains the appeal of his app and how users will benefit from it.

“My vision is to create a world where we move beyond food pyramids, plates and generic “one-size-fits-all” recommendations to a world of nutrition that has been uniquely personalized for each one of us. It’s a world shaped by personalized nutrition and pioneered by Habit.”

“We all deserve to know what foods are best for us – and often that means knowing our bodies and ourselves at the cellular level.”

Noting how the DNA technology helped him, Grimmer explains, “Turns out, I have a hard time processing sugars, high starch foods and refined carbohydrates, so the answer was eating an abundance of vegetables. I also found out that when I eat fat, I store it as fat. So out went the higher fat Paleo regimen I was on.”

He stresses, “Your personalized nutrition blueprint should always be available to you as a constant guide to the food choices in your life. Obtaining that personalized manual shouldn’t require thousands of dollars and wandering the world searching for the right physicians.”

Campbell’s aren’t the only big players entering the Personalized Nutrition space.

As reported in September 2016, Innova Market Insights looked at how personalized nutrition is performing a growing role for Nestlé, in an interview with Jörg Hager, who leads Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences Nutrition & Metabolic Health research team. NIHS focuses on key areas of research such as Metabolic, Gastrointestinal and Brain Health and Healthy Aging.

The aim of the Institute is to get some scientific basis for how food, ingredients, nutrition and nutrients work in terms of their effect on health.

“We really believe that it is possible to create better tailored products, for more specific sub-categories of individuals; first in the health business and then, probably, to extend that out to the general consumers in a targeted way,” he notes.

“For example, obese individuals with different degrees of insulin resistance have completely different weight maintenance outcomes, depending on the carbohydrate composition of their food,” he stresses.

 

The Environment’s Impact on Nutritional Needs

The idea behind personalized nutrition could extend further than just our DNA - our environment can also play a part in the nutrition we need. An example of this was highlighted in a recent study looking at the intake on vitamin D in pregnant women.

It found that pregnant women responded differently to vitamin D supplementation depending on their individual attributes, with participants who received the vitamin D supplement achieving different levels of vitamin D in the blood, even though they received the same dose.

For example, the supplements were less effective at raising vitamin D levels in pregnant women if they deliver their babies in the winter, have low levels of vitamin D early in pregnancy or gain more weight during pregnancy.

Professor Nicholas Harvey, of the University of Southampton, who led the study said: “Our study findings suggest that in order to optimize vitamin D concentrations through pregnancy, the supplemental dose given may need to be tailored to a woman's individual circumstances, such as the anticipated season of delivery.”

 

The Future of Personalized Nutrition

For now, personalized diets helping individuals decide what to include and what to omit from their diet will dominate this space, but the future of this developing trend could get very interesting.

For example, 3D food printing is an emerging field that has attracted a lot of hype, but there is certainly personalized nutritional potential there too, albeit further down the line.

Lauren Clardy, President of NutriMarketing Group, sees potential for its application in personalizing products for the consumer, explaining, “Printing technology can allow for customized doses based on nutrigenomics and metabolomics, and can be adapted for the weight of the patient.”

“It can also allow for a varied release profile. So, for example, we might see a 3D-printed pill that contains bio-actives such as probiotics that will release nutrients at different stages and times in the gut.”

 

The Personalized Nutrition Potential

Having previously been reserved for elite athletes, personalized nutrition is set to disrupt the regular consumer market, helping average people get more from their day-to-day life. In a market made up of consumers who are increasingly aware of their nutritional needs, and others who are living at risk of disease due their poor nutritional intake, it seems clear that this is an area of huge potential for the food industry.

By creating proprietary products that are personalized to the needs of smaller subcategories of individuals, companies may not only be able to benefit those at risk of disease, but also help others to achieve the high level of nutrition they seek.

And with companies already tapping into the market, it wont be long until this trend begins to hit the mainstream.

By Hannah Gardiner

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com

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