Beyond Genes and Microbes: The New Era of Personalised Nutrition

  • Is our genetic makeup really the key to unlocking optimal nutrition and health?
  • What other factors beyond your genes could be shaping our nutritional needs and responses to food?
  • Could a more comprehensive approach to personalised nutrition be the key to sustainable dietary changes?
  • What dietary personalisation skills can nutritionists focus on to enhance the effectiveness of nutrition programs?

Evolving Our Understanding of Personalised Nutrition

The evolution of personalised nutrition has come a long way since its inception. Initially, the focus was primarily on the role of inherited genetics in determining individual responses to food and nutrient requirements. Researchers believed that understanding one’s genetic makeup could unlock the key to optimal nutrition and health. However, as the field has evolved, it has become evident that the genetic component of our responses to food is relatively small compared to other impactful aspects. 

One of the significant breakthroughs in personalised nutrition has been the recognition that a myriad of factors (beyond our genetic makeup) play a crucial role in each of your clients’ individual nutritional needs and their ability to make dietary changes, including:

  • Personal metrics (e.g. age, sex, anthropometrics, body composition) 
  • Enterotype (e.g. microbiome profile, predominance of certain microbial types) 
  • Chronotype (e.g. circadian tendencies, early birds vs night owls) 
  • Current dietary patterns (e.g. eating habits, hydration levels, preferences) 
  • Food environment (e.g. quality food availability, cost) 
  • Lifestyle (e.g. work schedule, exercise, sleep, stress) 
  • Health history (e.g. reactions to certain food substances or food sensitivities) 
  • Behavioural processes (e.g. traits, beliefs, values, goals, change readiness) 

Moreover, the importance of what, how, and when we eat have been acknowledged as critical components in the personalised nutrition equation, for instance:

  • Meal composition (e.g. ensuring intakes of all essential nutrients in the right amounts) 
  • Meal sequence (e.g. what we have in our first meal of the day impacts how we metabilise foods in a subsequent meal) 
  • Meal context (e.g. eating times or time of the day when the food is consumed) 
  • Food sequence (e.g. the order of foods within the same meal influence how nutrients are absorbed and glycaemic responses) 

As our understanding of these factors has grown, so has the potential role of nutritionists in personalised nutrition. Nutritionists can take a more comprehensive approach, considering clients’ lifestyles, habits, and preferences. A sound nutritional program should assess clients’ current dietary patterns, preferences, and nutritional adequacy as key components in dietary personalisation. Genetic testing, gut microbiome analysis, and other biomarkers from blood tests can, of course, be used to further tailor recommendations, but these are unlikely to give us the full picture of what a client needs and what is feasible for them.  

Furthermore, the evolution of personalised nutrition has seen a greater emphasis on the development of food and eating skills, as well as behaviour change support. This means that a nutritionist of the future should go beyond simply handing over glossy eating plans that clients are unlikely to act on or observe in the long term. It’s also important to assist clients during the process of performing dietary changes and in the acquisition of food and eating skills. These may include:

  • Grocery shopping skills (e.g. label interpretation) 
  • Meal planning skills (e.g. planning meals ahead of the week) 
  • Portioning and rationing skills (e.g. right amounts, less food waste) 
  • Food preparation and cooking skills (e.g. using new kitchen utensils) 
  • Self-monitoring of food intake (e.g. practising undistracted eating)
  • Building habit strength (e.g. effortless inhibition of the overeating impulse)  
  • Enjoyment of healthier foods (e.g. enhancing taste, computing preferences)

This multidimensional approach to personalised nutrition ensures that clients can adopt and maintain sustainable dietary habits. 

Interdisciplinary collaboration has also become more commonplace, with nutritionists working alongside other healthcare professionals, such as nurses or GPs, gastroenterologists, oncologists, psychiatrists, allergists, and other medical professionals, fitness professionals, and psychological professionals and counsellors, to provide a comprehensive and coordinated approach to clients’ health and wellness.  

Lastly, the evolution of personalised nutrition has highlighted the importance of scientific literacy and critical appraisal skills among nutritionists. By staying up-to-date with the latest research and developments, nutritionists can provide the most accurate and effective recommendations, ensuring that their personalised advice is well-informed, safe, and includes a balanced assessment of risks and benefits. 

In conclusion, the evolution of personalised nutrition has shifted from a primary focus on genetics to a more nuanced understanding of the myriad factors that influence individual nutritional needs and responses. There are numerous other angles and aspects to consider in dietary personalisation, including the support that nutritionists can provide to clients in acquiring or improving their food and eating skills and suggest strategies for behaviour change. This expanded approach has broadened the role of nutritionists, empowering them to better support clients in achieving their health and wellness goals, optimising performance, mitigating disease risk, and managing symptoms.  

Personalised nutrition recognises the importance of behaviour change in achieving long-term health goals and may incorporate strategies like goal setting, self-monitoring, social support, and motivational interviewing to help individuals adopt and maintain healthier dietary habits. As an emerging field, research is ongoing to better understand the complex interactions between various factors and their impact on health outcomes. As our knowledge in these areas grows, it is expected that personalised nutrition will become more accessible and widely used, offering a more individualised and effective approach to nutrition and health.

Master the skills needed for dietary personalisation

In our Level 7 Clinical Nutrition Program at The Health Sciences Academy, we train professionals to gain the necessary skills to master each of these steps in personalising a nutrition program for their clients. By receiving this training, our nutritionists-in-training become equipped with the knowledge and practical tools to assess a client’s current health status, set achievable goals, personalise a nutrition plan, implement it, monitor progress, evaluate effectiveness, and provide ongoing maintenance support. 

Clients who work with a nutritionist trained at The Health Sciences Academy can expect to enjoy a personalised experience that is tailored to their unique needs, preferences, and health goals. Clients can benefit from being driven by various milestones in their nutrition program, which helps keep them engaged, motivated, and committed to achieving their target. They also receive ongoing support and guidance, which can help them overcome obstacles and stay on track with their dietary choices over the long term. Overall, our training helps nutritionists to provide their clients with a high-quality, personalised nutrition program that is both effective and motivating. 

If you want to become a Certified Clinical Nutritionist or take your nutrition programs to the next level with the steps needed for adequate dietary personalisation, talk to our team today. 

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© Copyright The Health Sciences Academy. The content, graphs and charts on this page have been exclusively prepared for The Health Sciences Academy and its prospect students, existing students and graduates. None of the content on this page and website may be reproduced, copied or altered without our explicit permission. Criminal and legal penalties for copyright and other infringement apply. All Terms and Conditions apply.


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