What is Personalized Nutrition?

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There is certainly something to the idea of personalized nutrition.

Clearly someone with celiac disease ought not be eating any wheat, rye, or barley.

About 25 years ago I developed a lecture at Pritikin called "Setting your Personal Diet Priorities." While it is true that added salt above about 1200 mg of sodium per day likely contributes to hypertension, it is clear people vary in their susceptibility to added salt. The same is true about the risk of increased intake of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. Some people live to be 100 years old or older while eating a diet with far more saturated fat and cholesterol than would be optimal for most people.

It is also true that people vary genetically in their propensity to develop, say, obesity. For those who are genetically more prone to gain weight (especially around the waist) and develop insulin resistance, the need to limit calorie-dense foods that are low in fiber along with beverage calories is more important than for those without such a genetic propensity.

So, while the Pritikin Diet is likely optimal for most people, it is likely that -- for some -- different components of the diet are more likely to impact their health and longevity. Plus, today many people factor in the impact of what they eat on the environment as well.

Even when I was an undergraduate we were being taught that in planning a therapeutic diet one had to factor in the individual's food preferences. So  I do think there is something to "personalized nutrition priorities." It is sort of like the impact of diet on one's microbiome. We know it is important but we really do not know nearly enough to know for sure what would represent an optimal diet to maximize the health and longevity of a given individual.

By James J. Kenney PhD, FACN

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