Personalized Nutrition and Supplements: Is the Science REALLY There?
Can technology tell you the best types of food and supplements to take for optimal health? Emerging science says that we are closer than ever. Tests revealing individual microbiome, genetic factors, and metabolic health will shape the future of health. Personalized nutrition uses an individual’s genetic, epigenetic and microbiome profile to create a truly unique dietary plan.
What is Personalized Nutrition?
Personalized nutrition exists at the crossroads of behavior and biology. It is the creation of a unique personalized nutrition and supplement plan using evidence-based science.
Historically, dietitians and physicians have used population-based nutrition advice, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and adapted guidelines for specific populations2. Now, modern technology allows us to use biology to help shape dietary advice, which is the heart of personalized nutrition.
It is well established that environment and genetics both influence health. The field of personalized nutrition takes this a step further by looking into the genes you are born with, how these genes interact with your environment as well as the state of the microbiome in the body.
DNA testing is like a static assessment of one’s health potential. Tests are able to map a person’s DNA to assess potential risk for diseases, genetic markers that influence certain vitamins and minerals.
Additional tests look at RNA to determine the impact of your gene expression and how it influences our nutrient needs based on diet, lifestyle and even microbiome.
The overall microbiome includes both oral and gut microorganisms. The oral microbiome protects the mouth and the state of the oral microbiome influences health and disease progression. A healthy gut microbiome aids in the digestion and absorption of vitamins and minerals. Oral and gut microbiome testing kits provide an analysis of the different microorganisms present in these microbiomes.
The Science of Personalized Nutrition
At-home microbiome and epigenetic testing kits bring the technology of personalized nutrition to your doorstep. Let’s examine the science of personalized nutrition and supplements.
We have long known that genetics and environment have the greatest influence on our health. It wasn't until recently that the field of Nutrigenomics was born following the Human Genome Project. Once scientists mapped the human genome, it gave life to nutritional epigenetics, which is how the genes are expressed in the body.
Knowing DNA is a helpful starting point, but understanding how these genes interact with the foods we eat and our environment paints a more comprehensive health picture3.
We can change our lifestyle, but we can’t change our DNA. Unlike DNA tests, gene expression tests, or RNA tests, look at how certain genes are expressed. An RNA test is like a real-time assessment of the health state of your cells.
In cells, RNA acts like a messenger, it tells cells how to make proteins. If there is an RNA that is telling a cell to stay “on” too much, it can cause too much cellular growth and raises the risk of certain types of health concerns7.
Testing RNA gives a glance into how the body is behaving and whether pathways are being turned on that could lead to negative health outcomes. Testing kits analyze RNA from blood samples collected at home.
Testing kits combining the assessment of cellular health in conjunction with microbiome health provides a holistic health view of the body
The bacteria, fungi and molds that live in and on the body is known as the human microbiome, a living ecosystem vital for good health. Did you know that microbes don’t just exist in the gut, but has distinct populations throughout your body such as your mouth, lungs, skin, and more?
Digestive health is linked to mood, immune and mental health, and much more. The microorganisms that live in the digestive tract are known as the gut microbiome, a living flora vital for good digestive health.
Gut microbiome tests analyze your stool sample and provide a comprehensive report of your individual microbiome. Microbiome testing provides insights not only into the population of the gut, but also its health state.
With this information, experts formulate dietary recommendations to support a healthy digestive tract. Knowing the existing population of your microbiome offers valuable data for determining what food and supplements can help restore optimal gut health.
The oral microbiome is the second largest colony of microorganisms in the body after the gut. A healthy oral microbiome protests your teeth, mouth tissues and also helps support overall health10.
Oral microbiome testing involves analyzing a saliva sample. Knowing the composition of the oral microbiome provides a glimpse into oral health and the health of other areas of the body related to the oral microbiome such as cardiovascular and metabolic health10.
Validated Personalized Nutrition Research
Personalized nutrition is an emerging science and there are challenges as to whether results are reproducible. Peer-reviewed studies are starting to show that personalized nutrition approaches to diet and supplementation are more effective than population-based guidelines when looking at health outcomes4.
One study of a Personalized Nutrition Program on a workforce showed a greater reduction in BMI, hip circumference and total cholesterol than population-based advice4. The study involved a 10-week intervention using targeted programs based on DNA markers.
Similarly, a randomized control trial of overweight adults showed that a personalized nutrition approach resulted in significantly greater loss of body fat, decrease in BMI and blood biomarker after a 12-week intervention5.
One of the biggest metabolic health threats to the US population is blood glucose metabolism. Researchers in one study used a personalized nutrition plan to predict blood glucose responses to food using artificial intelligence as well as DNA and microbiome data from participants6.
Researchers used DNA and microbiome data to create personalized nutrition plans for each participant. The results showed a smaller blood glucose response after each meal, which is imperative for managing metabolic health.6.
1. Sean H Adams, Joshua C Anthony, Ricardo Carvajal, Lee Chae, Chor San H Khoo, Marie E Latulippe, Nathan V Matusheski, Holly L McClung, Mary Rozga, Christopher H Schmid, Suzan Wopereis, William Yan. Advances in Nutrition. 2020; 11(1)25-34.
2. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.
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5. Kan Juntao, Ni Jiayi, Xue Kun, Wang Feijie, Zheng Jianheng, Cheng Junrui, Wu Peiying, Runyon Matthew K., Guo Hongwei, Du Jun. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2022. doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.919882.
6. David Zeevi, Tal Korem, Niv Zmora, David Israeli, Daphna Rothschild, Adina Weinberger, Orly Ben-Yacov, Dar Lador, Tali Avnit-Sagi, Maya Lotan-Pompan, Jotham Suez, Jemal Ali Mahdi, Elad Matot, Gal Malka, Noa Kosower, Michal Rein, Gili Zilberman-Schapira, Lenka Dohnalová, Meirav Pevsner-Fischer, Rony Bikovsky, Zamir Halpern, Eran Elinav, Eran Segal. Cell. 2015; 163(5):1079-1094. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2015.11.001.
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9. Bashiardes, Stavros; Abdeen, Suhaib K.; Elinav, Eran. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2019; 69(6):633-638. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000002491.
10. Deo PN, Deshmukh R. Oral microbiome: Unveiling the fundamentals. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol. 2019 Jan-Apr;23(1):122-128. doi: 10.4103/jomfp.JOMFP_304_18.
11. Deo PN, Deshmukh R. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol. 2019;23(1):122-128. doi: 10.4103/jomfp.JOMFP_304_18.