How Personalized Can Nutrition Be?
The idea of nutrition has changed over time. From sugar being part of the daily diet in the early 1900s to the MyPlate model of today, America’s main mission is to find the perfect model for nutrition for the entire population. But what if we are doing it all wrong? What if we are operating under the fallacy of the “one size fits all” model?
After all, everyone is different on a genetic level for the most part. What if we all have different nutritional needs? What would meeting those needs look like? Today, we are going to talk about personalized nutrition.
How do We Respond to Food?
We all know that food is essential for survival. That is why we cultivate it, create a culture around it, and create philosophies about it. The one that encapsulates the spirit of the current attitude of nutritionists is the Chinese principle of Daoism. They believed that food was medicine for the body. That each food had a property that solely exists to maintain nutritional balance. So, you needed an ideal balance between things like hot and cold, spicy and bland, bitter and sweet. Aside from external injury, the common belief was that everything internal can be solved by nutritional balance.
And for the most part, scientific data is backing up what centuries of people have been saying. The recent discovery of microorganisms in the stomach, and how they behave bring credence to that theory. Microscopic single-celled organisms thrive or die according to how it reacts to a nutrient. Each microorganism has a strand of DNA in that responds to micronutrients.
If the helpful/neutral ones are thriving you are going to be more healthy. If they are dying, stagnant, or mutated, however, you are much more likely to get sick or suffer from some sort of metabolic disorder.
However, the real kicker each microbiome is different.
How Different Are Our Nutritional Needs?
There are demonstrable differences between various microbiomes. The most overt example is food allergies. Someone can have exposure to something like strawberries for a long time but will suddenly gain an allergic reaction to it. Some people are allergic to just a combination of things. For instance, someone can tolerate raspberries and lemonade but the two of them together can cause a reaction. Some people even lose allergies altogether. There are even cases of pregnant women losing an allergy during pregnancy and getting it back afterward.
The Nutrition Twin Study
This is further explored in the latest study between identical and fraternal twins. The unique twin study, “PREDICT 1”, examines the biological responses of 1,100 participants that ate certain foods over a period of 14 days. They utilized multiple search markers that included: blood sugar levels, triglycerides, insulin resistance, levels of physical activity, and the health of their gut microbiome.
The results were surprising to the research team. Professor Tim Spector, the man who spearheaded the study stated in Medical News, “(we) found out that identical twins shared 37% of the bacteria in their gut — only slightly higher than the 35% shared between two unrelated individuals.”
The meaning is further clarified by the article, “Despite having the same genes and exposure to similar environments, identical twins often had very different glucose responses to set meals, whether they were high in carbs, fiber, fat, or sugar.”
This demonstrates not only just how different a person’s nutritional needs are, but also how they can drastically change.
Nutrition isn’t only Genetic
So, what could the other variables be for nutrition and health? Well, there is a lot of them. Metabolism, the microbiome, schedules, meal timing, and physical activity combined with nutrition is what makes up the whole of a person’s health.
This level of variance in measurable data in combination with the varieties of microbiomes out there means that the idea of a “one size fits all” dietary guideline is impossibly unrealistic.
No one can come up with the perfect nutrition guide for everyone because everybody reacts to everything differently.
This is the sort of information that changes our attitudes about nutrition and health in general. And if this sort of variance can be applicable to things like medication? That can change the shape of modern medicine as we know it, let alone diet plans.
Nutrition and a healthy outcome are what everybody needs, even if it looks different from one person to the next.
Talk to a nutritionist if you feel the need to start an individual diet plan