PERSONALIZED Nutrition: The Key To Successfully Improving Your Health And Eating Habits
Written by: Lindsay Sibson
WARNING: I’m about to get REAL and personal… because heck, I’m HUMAN – and you are too!
If you prefer not to read about “bathroom behavior,” skip down to the first BOLD headline… otherwise stick with me.
I’ve been traveling and backpacking for the better part of 3 years and I often get asked if I “miss anything from home.”
I miss being able to wake up in the morning and fart if I have to. I sincerely mean that.
Ya see, the thing is, I’m often in hostels and surrounded by strangers… and being in a foreign place, eating international cuisine and NOT having my own personal space is a freaking recipe for gastrointestinal disaster.
I was first marked with an “IBS” diagnosis 12 years ago, which is like The Scarlet Letter of problematic stomachs. Instead of succumbing to taking the multiple prescriptions I was handed by my primary care doctor, I took my branded self to the library and checked out every holistic and natural healing book I could find.
Fast forward to NOW and boooooy have I learned a LOT.
One book said to eat 6 small meals… another said to fast for at least 12 hours… another said eat a hearty breakfast because “it’s the most important meal…” another said NEVER skip meals.
It’s all TOO much information, darnit! And it all tends to contradict each other.
What took me years to figure out that WASN’T written in the pages of those books was THIS:
PERSONALIZED nutrition is better than a “one size fits all” approach in improving diets.
Piiiiiiiing. **Light bulb moment**
Your body is 100% unique and in need of a 100% unique diet (and by diet, I mean your specific intake of nutrition that gives you optimal health).
What Is Personalized Nutrition?
This approach to nutrition is based on the concept that by “individualizing” advice and support, each person is able to be motivated AND able to make the dietary changes necessary to their individual needs.
|What It IS
||What It IS NOT
- Uses information to derive SPECIFIC advice and support relevant for the individual
- Provide generic advice, such as:
- “Eat at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables daily”
Why Personalized Nutrition Works
According to a study, people who received personalized nutrition advice were able to make important changes to their eating patterns by:
- Developing healthier eating habits
- Consuming less red meat
- Reducing their salt intake
This effective method was part of a study led by Newcastle University (UK) and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Professor John Mathers, Director of the Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University and leader of the study says:
“Many of us know that we could improve our health and wellbeing if we eat better – however, we find it really difficult to change our eating habits and to maintain those improved eating patterns.
“In this study we found that personalized nutrition advice helped people to make bigger and more appropriate changes to their diets than the conventions healthy eating advice which was followed by our control group.”
- 1,607 adults across seven European countries joined through the Food4Me website and were randomized to 1 of 4 treatment groups
- The control group was given conventional dietary advice
- Personalized nutrition participants were allocated to 1 of 3 different options; personalized nutrition based on:
- Analysis of current diet
- Diet and phenotype (adiposity – body fatness – and blood markers)
- Diet, phenotype and genotype
- 5 genes were examined, for which there was strong evidence of diet-gene interactions and the opportunity to customize dietary advice based on genotype
Next, each participant was given 3 personalized food-based goals to help them focus on the aspects of their individual diets that needed the MOST change.
- Participant #1: Choose wholegrain versions of breads and breakfast cereals to increase dietary fiber
- Participant #2: Avoid or reduce specific high fat dairy products to lower saturated fat intake
According to Professor Mathers:
“Six months after they started, those participants in the personalized nutrition groups had improved their eating patterns significantly more than those in the control group. They were eating a healthier diet overall including less red meat, saturated fat and salt and were eating significantly more of the B vitamin, folate, found in vegetables and fruits.
“The important message is that, compared with the Control group, the Personalised Nutrition groups had about double the improvement in overall healthiness of their diets measured using the Healthy Eating Index. We would expect this to translate, eventually, to bigger improvements in health and wellbeing.”
The study, called Food4Me, recruited participants online and then required them to report their dietary and other data via the web. This innovative approach also had participants collect their own blood samples using kits provided to them.
At the end of 6 months:
- 80% of the participants successfully completed the study
- Researchers discovered those randomized to the personalized nutrition treatment groups had significantly BIGGER improvements in their eating patterns (compared to the control group)
- To their surprise, the researchers found that there was no evidence that the different bases for personalization made any difference to the outcome
Personalized Nutrition And YOU
The results of the initial Food4me intervention study shows that this program could have much greater public health benefits. As Professor Mathers stated:
“What is exciting about this study is that we now know that the internet can be used to deliver personalized nutrition advice to large numbers of people. People find this approach convenient and it is better at improving people’s diets than the conventional ‘one size fits all’ approach.
“People were able to use the internet to upload relevant information about themselves and about their current eating patterns, which was then used to work out the personalized advice relevant to each participant.
“Importantly, they stayed with the intervention for the 6 months of the study so that the research team could find out if the dietary changes made were being sustained. Taken together, the evidence suggests that this approach could be scaled up to help much larger numbers of people chose healthier eating patterns and this could be a valuable tool for improving public health.”
Ready To personalize YOUR nutrition? Here Is how To Get Started:
- Identify 3 nutrition goals based on your current health
- Choose a method to TRACK your eating patterns and health habits
- Use a notebook
- Sign up for an online tracker such as Myfitnesspal
- Pay attention to how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally
- You are meant to feel ENERGETIC and healthy – if you don’t your body is giving you a sign that change is needed
Do you have any experience with personalized nutrition? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
Lindsay Sibson turned her lifelong dream of traveling the world into a reality when she first stepped on a plan in April of 2014. With the simple intention of learning more about this beautiful world, she stepped away from corporate America to explore an alternative lifestyle of long term international travel, volunteering, blogging and pursuing a blissfully happy and fulfilling way of life.
Lindsay documents her journey in hopes of empowering others to find their passion, reignite their spark and freshen their outlook on life. Connect with her on her website and follow her travels on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/_traveloholic_).
Through her blog, Lindsay documents her journey in hopes of empowering others to find their passion, reignite their spark and freshen their outlook on life.
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