Can personalised nutrition change lives?

Greek Salad at Nisi. Photo Credit: Markos Papadatos

New research into health trends has confirmed that intuitive and mindful eating can assist in the management of a number of chronic health conditions. The discovery, made by researchers at Kilo Health, offers some promise for those living with conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, as it means those adopting a personalized and mindful approach to eating can lead to a positive change in their overall wellness levels.

Nutrition is a critical aspect of everyday life, and its impact on human health and well-being cannot be overstated. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) recognise the importance of proper nutrition in preventing disease.

“What people eat and drink has an impact on their health,” a DGAs statement reads. “In the US, more than half of all adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor diets and not enough physical activity. Given the high rates of chronic disease among Americans, the science that informs the Dietary Guidelines is examined through the lens of health promotion and disease prevention.”

But what is “correct nutrition”? Is there really a single nutritional plan that is “correct” for everybody?

Sizing Up Expert Advice

For a long time, the general public and health professionals alike had to rely on standardized advice – general tips on what was considered “good nutrition.” Far from being set in stone, these guidelines changed over time in many ways to reflect our growing understanding of nutrition.

“Decades ago, we told people with diabetes that they could not have sugar,” explains Klinio medical advisor RD Terri Ryan, CDCES author. “When nutrition researchers showed that starch also turns into sugar (glucose) when digested, they realized there was no need to ban sugar. So dietary recommendations became a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber in moderation since all of these groups have an impact on blood sugar.”

While updated with the latest available knowledge, general guidelines have remained just that; general guidelines, often designed with healthy, able-bodied people in mind. A diet plan that works wonders for one person may be ineffective or even harmful for another based on factors such as gender, lifestyle, genetics, health status, and support network.

As technology allows us to identify and track even more factors, nutritional advice can be tailored to an individual’s needs – making it far more effective.

A Personal Matter

With a growing body of research backing up its beneficial effects, personalized nutrition is on the rise.

In the 2020 research paper “Guiding Principles for the Implementation of Personalized Nutrition Approaches That Benefit Health and Function”, published by Science Direct, personalized nutrition is defined as using “individual-specific information, founded in evidence-based science, to promote dietary behavior change that may result in measurable health benefits.”

Coupled with an innovative policy and regulatory environment, as well as greater consumer awareness, the paper concludes that personalized nutrition “promises a new frontier in nutrition that could optimize health and function across the population.”

At Klinio, there is a particular focus on personalized nutrition as one of the cornerstones of diabetes management. “A lot of times diabetes feels like something you can’t control, but nutrition is something you can control,” says Terri Ryan.

Fitting Diabetes Into Life

“Diabetes, nutrition, and technology are all closely intertwined,” Ryan explains. “Years ago, people with diabetes had to guess their blood glucose levels based on how they felt or from a urine dipstick test. Healthcare providers had to guess diabetes medication doses based on a single glucose reading taken in the office or how much a person weighed.”

While past advice on dietary management may have included directives such as “no carbs” or “no white foods,” science has advanced significantly in recent years. Medical experts now understand much more about diabetes and how to manage it. A tailored approach that combines medication and modern technology with a personalized diet and exercise plans can lead to better outcomes for countless people. What’s more, this more personalized approach can take into account practicalities such as the level of support available to the person at home, their age, lifestyle, and any other medical concerns they may have.

“Today’s approach to nutrition is to ‘fit diabetes into your life,’ not ‘fit life into your diabetes,’” Ryan adds. “To do this, we start by talking about a typical day.  What is usually eaten? Are there any planned physical activities?  What are your jobs and hobbies?  What scares you the most about diabetes?”

While there are some basics of diabetes management that apply to everyone – including getting some physical activity and eating right – other steps can be more specific to each individual.

With a personalized approach to nutrition, diseases like diabetes and prediabetes – as well as other related conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol – can potentially be managed more easily and effectively. The same approach can be used to create an exercise plan that works for each individual, making lifestyle changes easier to maintain and improving long-term health.

Can personalised nutrition change lives?
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