Ringing in a new era of technology in nutrition: Digital breakthroughs to kickstart healthcare revolution
07 Jan 2020 --- The last few years have seen the proliferation of technology in the nutrition space, with the new decade primed to witness a digital healthcare revolution. Breakthroughs such as artificial intelligence (AI) and increased access to data means that we are more in control of ourselves than ever before. US-based healthcare company Abbott flags key developments in this space including personalized medicine, electronic health records and implanted medical devices. This new technology has taken the form of everything from ingestible gas-sensing capsules that monitors gases produced within the gut in real-time, to in-store genetic tests to encourage shoppers to make healthier and more informed choices.
“Nowadays, we can track everything from our daily steps and hours we sleep to the nutrition we take in. Consumers love having more and more health information at their fingertips, which helps them feel more in control and informed about their health. However, it’s important to consider where you’re getting your information from and to always stay in touch with your healthcare provider for an overall analysis of your health,” Refaat Hegazi, Global Medical Director at Abbott, tells NutritionInsight.
Abbott points to healthcare access via remote monitoring as one major change. Virtual technologies can help remotely connect patients in rural areas with providers. One form of this technology takes the form of telemedicine, which lets people speak with doctors through a smartphone or other device. This is being used in Amazon Care, which launched in pilot form late last year. It is a healthcare service offering Amazon employees virtual and in-person care, including through video calls.
However, Abbott notes that the digital nature of future healthcare does mean that it will not be personal. Instead, this increased access to data and technology is giving doctors more time to interact with consumers one-on-one. Additionally, consumers are being given the tools to be able to monitor themselves in real-time, allowing for the level of personalization increasingly sought.
A cornucopia of technology
Last November, a collaboration between microbial sciences company Seed Health and Atmo Biosciences – a digital health company – saw an ingestible gas-sensing capsule measure the impact of probiotics in real-time. Meanwhile, Irish start-up FoodMarble produces a portable breath test and app used to measure and track digestive health. The company has partnered with Carbiotix to examine whether breath hydrogen can be used as a non-invasive, real-time measure of changes in microbiome composition.
Notably, shoppers at supermarket chain Waitrose and department store John Lewis in the UK can now take a quick, on-site cheek swab to generate a personalized DNA report revealing key nutrition-related health traits. DnaNudge’s pop-up services are set to inspire shoppers to make healthy choices based on their unique genetic makeup.
AI is also being used in a major way to ensure that consumers are receiving the best care possible. Earlier this week, L’Oréal unveiled Perso, an AI-powered, at-home system marketed as offering optimized beauty personalization. Meanwhile, Mayo Clinic and Viome are collaborating to explore the potential of the latter company’s AI-driven personalized diets in helping to manage disorders such as sleep apnea and obesity. Even in the pet nutrition sector, AI is being harnessed by Stonehaven Incubate and Nuritas to discover and develop advanced animal health solutions. The initial focus of the partnership will be on exploring animal feed ingredients.
However, regulation and safeguarding must keep pace with these new tools as opportunity for misuse also grow. In September, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidance on how it will regulate “novel, swiftly evolving” digital health tools, such as mobile health software and products that use AI. The FDA highlights that its approach “must foster, not inhibit, innovation.”
It remains to be seen just how far technology can go in revolutionizing the nutrition sector, but the breakthroughs of the previous year alone point to major advances to come.
By Katherine Durrell
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