The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced the launch of a $156 million study to be carried out during the next five years, looking into personalised eating plans. The study data will come from blood glucose levels and microbes in a person’s gut, among other sources. Researchers aim to better understand how different people process various foods.
The project “has the potential to truly transform the field of nutrition science” and create “a wealth of data to fuel discovery science for years to come,” Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) has argued.
According to Dr Filip Koidis, specialised nutritionist and dietitian, diet personalisation is based on 3 key pillars.
“Education stems from scientific research and investigative studies which are ever evolving. We learn about which foods we respond to the best. For example, a person of a given genetic and physiologic makeup will respond better to ice-cream, if eaten in the morning rather than in the evening; or consuming daily kefir for someone can increase a specific strain of their microbiome and greatly benefit their health,” Koidis said.
People also need to understand their skills, when it comes to cooking, processing, growing food and their environment, the nutritionist explained.
“There is no point knowing that avocados are great for me if I can’t source them or they are too expensive for me, or my partner is severely allergic to them so I can’t have them at home,” he added.
Finally Dr Koidis spoke about using the knowledge and the skill set in order to implement the nutrition programme in real life.
“We don’t eat food only as nourishment but also as a form of entertainment, comfort, habit or tradition - all of which will significantly affects our food-choices and sometimes even overpowers the pillars of education and skill set,” Dr Koidis argued.
NIH’s planned nutrition study is part of the agency’s strategic plan to accelerate nutrition research over next 10 years.
“The NIH precision nutrition will definitely be a revolutionary study in terms of its scope though its results will not create a truly personalised nutrition but rather better-informed food choices. Personalising one’s nutrition based on their genetic make-up may sound like the penultimate approach to dieting, however this will only cover part of a bespoke diet approach,” Koidis said.
A billion dollar research approach through expanded collaboration across NIH Institutes and Centers will aim to understand precision nutrition as much as possible, providing answers to detailed nutrition queries.