An Individualized Diet?

If you are confused about nutrition, you are in good company. Should you go low fat or low carb? Vegetarian or Paleo? Eat whole grains or eliminate grains entirely? Drink coffee or skip it? Contradictory information in the news is only one problem. Even nutritionists and scientists disagree because they are looking at different data. Even more perplexing, the way we each respond to food is quite individual.  Some individual factors include:

  • Genetics influences both metabolism and which foods suit a person’s system best (and worst)
  • Age and gender. It’s no secret that our bodies’ needs change as we age. And is it any surprise that men process and store nutrients differently than women?
  • Level of activity. Exercise alone won’t fix your diet, but it does change your caloric and nutritional needs. Regular exercise also changes how the body deals with extra calories–the kind of fat and location of fat stores, both of which impact health.
  • Culture and environment, including pre-natal. Foods you grew up eating and even those your mom ate while you were in utero will affect how various foods affect you.
  • Gut Biome. It’s all the rage to talk about the gut biome, and pro- and pre-biotics. Scientists have discovered that varying bacteria living in your gut affect your health and digestion. If we knew the makeup of our individual biomes, we might know better we should and should not eat.
  • Illnesses. Not only does poor eating cause illness, but illnesses can mess with your metabolism, digestion, and absorption of nutrients–sometimes permanently.
  • Health Goals. You might not guess it from the proliferation of diet books, pills, programs, and advertising, but not everyone is trying to lose weight, and those who are have different reasons for doing so.

Check out this New York Times Opinion piece on why we should have a National Institute of Nutrition. They hit on many of the points I often make about nutrition, including personalizing diet.