Many countries now have general dietary and nutrition guidelines that help guide the general population on what foods to eat for better health, and to explain how nutritional requirements change at different stages of life. These guidelines provide a good starting point to guide individuals on how to make changes to their diet and lifestyle to improve their health and reduce their risk of many diseases.
Tailoring guidelines to suit individual needs
Research continues to discover new information about food, nutrition and health. In recent years we are becoming more aware that while general overall concepts of good nutrition still apply across the whole population, nutritional requirements may also vary for some individuals. The differences affecting nutritional needs caused by age and stage of life (eg pregnancy, infancy) are well known. Other differences can be caused by inherited factors (our genetics) which can include differences in how we react to certain foods as well as differences in our susceptibility to different diseases, which in turn can alter nutritional needs. Clearly, one-size-fits-all nutrition recommendations may not be appropriate for everyone.
At present, dietitians and nutritionists may offer personalised advice and nutritional recommendations to individuals by taking into account such factors as their family history of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, results from recent blood tests (biochemical factors), and their individual medical history. Other measures to examine individual needs include a personal diet history, recordings of body height, weight and waist circumference (anthropometric measurements) and questions about current lifestyle particularly physical activity.
In addition to all these different aspects, new technologies are now making it possible to explore the potential of genetics to personalise nutrition recommendations even more specifically for an individual.
The aim of personalised nutrition
Personalised nutrition aims to understand more about how our genes, nutrition and health all interact; and how in the future, we can develop better targeted dietary recommendations by taking our DNA.
Personalised nutrition has the potential to revolutionise nutrition and dietetics practice. While the concept of ‘personalised nutrition’ is an exciting one; it is important to remember that this research is still in its early stages and there is a lot we still don’t know. If you would like to learn more about personalised nutrition and how it may be applicable to you then seek advice from medical specialists and dietitians with experience in the area.
Find out more
In the See also section of this step, you can access links to food4me - a university led, EU funded research project that’s investigating all aspects of personalised nutrition.
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