Have You Joined the Personalised Nutrition Revolution?
We are in the midst of one of the greatest transitions ever faced by any generation. Technological disruption is affecting all aspects of our lives, from business to society. Specifically, innovation in medicine and digital biology shows no sign of slowing down, and is enabling us to enhance vitality, counteract disease, and prolong the human health span far beyond what was previously thought possible.
For decades, we’ve been bombarded with generic products or pieces of advice with set rules or formulations that ‘actually work’. We’ve been fooled into believing that what works for someone else can work for us, too.
"Bio-individuality means that every person differs when it comes to health and nutrition."
“But, how do I know what works for me?”
By now, you’ve likely heard of a number of companies that test your DNA by sending a buccal swab to your door and receiving a sample of your saliva in return. With this, they take millions of snapshots of your genome, which looks at your SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms), which are places in the genome that differ between people and are known to influence certain biological functions or infer greater risk to a certain disease. For example, the gene MTHFR codes for the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), which activates folate (vitamin B9) and converts toxic homocysteine to methionine in the body. MTHFR contains two SNPs known to make a version of the enzyme that functions at a reduced capacity. If your code has a ‘GG’ in the SNP, you have normal MTHFR function, whilst ‘AG’ or ‘AA’ variations confer a 30% or 70% reduction in function, respectively. This results in inactive folate and elevated homocysteine levels which can lead to several health problems.
Simpler data, like whether you’re lactose intolerant or whether you’re a fast or slow caffeine metaboliser, can be identified - even how quickly you recover after exercise can be pinned down. More than this, companies can now decode your entire genome, therefore all the information contained in your genetic code can be ‘downloaded’ for life. Twenty years ago this would cost USD3 billion, today it costs less than USD700.
With these kinds of leaps in technology, the once-in-a-lifetime investment in understanding your genetic makeup could prove worthwhile as scientists discover more and more links between genes and health.
As we gain new knowledge and new genetic discoveries are made, your genome can be scanned for more SNPs and the results added to your report.
"While genetic tests can tell us a lot about our unique biology, other tests like microbiome analysis, blood tests and organic acids tests offer more specific data about our current nutrient status."
If this all sounds too unfamiliar to you, think about the wealth of data we’re already tracking through the devices we wear or carry around every day. Whether it’s your steps and calorie intake on your phone or heart and sleep rate on your smart watch, you’re likely tracking something that tells you how your body is functioning.
It seems like a logical next step to be monitoring blood glucose levels in real time with a continuous glucose monitor stuck to your arm, or breathing into a device to determine whether you’re burning mostly fat or carbs.
With consumers having access to sophisticated information about their unique health status, the status quo in the nutrition industry is no longer sufficient. As blanket remedies give way to personalised solutions, supplements, meal plans and training programmes will all be tailored to suit the individual.
With precise data, we can give precise solutions.
This is the key to preventative medicine. Monitor, measure and manage all that you can to delay the onset of disease. The abundance of health data we can gather from our everyday lives, combined with advancing biological tests, enables us to accurately prescribe the right nutrients to individuals, opening the door to completely personalised nutritional solutions.
Our role, as humans, is to leverage these emerging technologies in the best possible way. We don’t have to be taken over by tech – instead, we can become enhanced humans with brighter and healthier futures.
By Kirsten Flanagan
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kirsten Flanagan is the Business Development Manager at TAILORBLEND, a customised nutrition solution giving you the opportunity to tailor-blend your own premium nutritional supplements according to your unique needs. She holds a BSc (Med) Hons in Exercise Science, and is passionate about sharing the power of preventative medicine with South Africans. For more information or to get in touch, visit tailorblend.co.za.