Precision Nutrition: A New Era

A research article recently published in PLoS Medicine examined the relationship between changes in women’s height and the distribution of women’s height across a population using data from over a million women living in 59 countries (Gausman et al, 2018).  The results were based on a final sample of 857,053 women. The authors found…

“a lack of consistent relationship between changes in mean women’s height and its SD (Standard Deviation), which challenges the assumption that the mean is a useful summary measure of a populations’ change in risk factors.

This suggests to me that a similar situation may occur when the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) is used to assess and track the proportion of a population with an inadequate nutritional intake.  I make this point in my comment to the PLoS Medicine article.

People tend to be creatures of habit. We travel familiar roads and paths. We favor certain establishments and brands. We prefer foods supplied by those we know and trust. We like comfort foods. In fact, we can inadvertently become ‘heavy users’ of a relatively limited number of foods. These habits can lead to under- or over-consumption of vitamins, minerals, EPA+DHA, lutein, zeaxanthin and other compounds.

In a era of precision nutrition, it will be possible for individuals to objectively assess and track their vitamin, iron and omega-3 fatty acid [eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)] status.

These technologies will give people peace of mind and change the face of nutrition and health research. Inexpensive diagnostic technologies based on a simple finger stick, will allow individuals and communities to better assess diet quality, prevent essential nutrient malnutrition and related diseases.

When a vitamin, or iron, or EPA+DHA level is found to be low, we will know that we need to add foods rich in the shortfall nutrient to our diet, be it naturally occurring or fortified, or a dietary supplement. By repeating the assessment in a few months, we can verify that the nutrient gap has been closed. We can then find peace of mind.

If a nutrient level is unnecessarily high, it will be possible to replace some foods in our habitual diet or choose a less potent dietary supplement  to re-balance our bodies with respect to that nutrient.

In my opinion, the era of precision nutrition cannot come soon enough.

About Michael McBurney

Personal Blog | Nutrition scientist with broad interests, including social media and the impact of open access journals on science publishing | Self-employed freelancer
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