cover photo what is a personalized nutrition approach


Personalized nutrition is an approach that provides individualized nutrition recommendations based on a person’s unique genetics, metabolism, biochemistry, and gut microbiota. While personalized nutrition is still being fully developed, rather than only relying on nonspecific healthy recommendations for the general population, personalized nutrition promises to be able to offer specific, tailored recommendations for individuals and their health.


This specified recommendation approach can be done because of the advancements of The Human Genome Project in mapping the human genome (or DNA), which was completed in 2003. If you have used products like AncestryDNA or 23andMe DNA testing, you have utilized the information discovered from The Human Genome Project.

By knowing the human genome, researchers can identify differences in how food and specific nutrients interact with genes and how this interaction can alter phenotypes, or observable, measurable traits. For example, how a person metabolizes caffeine can be determined based on their genes. An individual’s genes can predict whether they are a “fast” or “slow” caffeine metabolizer, which can tell us about their sensitivity to the effects of caffeine.1 This information can be used to educate an individual on how much caffeine could lead to cardiovascular health consequences. One study found people who carry the gene for “slow” caffeine metabolization were at an increased risk of experiencing a nonfatal MI (heart attack) with the intake of two cups of coffee daily. Researchers recommend that people who are “slow” metabolizers should limit coffee intake to one cup of coffee per day to limit this risk.2

Other known conditions that can be determined by genetics include, determining if an individual is lactose intolerant3, has Celiac Disease4, or has the rare condition phenylketonuria (PKU).5

Panoramic of hand professional nutrition healthful surrounded by a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables working on digital tablet. Concept of right nutrition, diet and healthcare.


Researchers have also found a possible association between the intake of saturated fats leading to greater weight gain in individuals with specific genes than those without6, as well as the link between genetics and salt-sensitive hypertension.7 For those with a family history of elevated cholesterol (Familial Hypercholesterolemia or FH), genetic testing may help them identify their potential risk of having elevated LDL cholesterol that could lead to the risk of cardiovascular issues based on their genetics. This information could assist those with FH to implement proper lifestyle changes and ensure they are taking appropriate medication to manage their cholesterol levels.8 There is also promise in identifying genes that may be able to predict an increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.9



In addition to gene-nutrient interactions, personalized nutrition can utilize an individual’s unique gut microbiome to determine nutrition interventions and recommendations. Originally discovered in the 18th century, the gut microbiome has been of great interest in the scientific community for its impact on physical and mental health.10 Most notable is the gut-brain axis and how the health of your gut microbiota has the potential to influence your mental health. Studies show when there is an imbalance of the gut bacteria, and dysbiosis, there is more likely to be mental health issues present, such as anxiety and depression.11 Gut health has also been shown to have a potential influence on metabolism and metabolic diseases, such as Type 2 Diabetes and obesity. One study found that obese mice had a different makeup of gut microbiota than lean mice.12 Knowing which specific makeup of bacteria is beneficial for preventing certain kinds of conditions could help tailor treatment for individuals and create a beneficial balance in their gut microbiome.

healthy canned goods


While many private companies already offer genetic testing for a variety of areas, science is still in its infancy with gaps and challenges that remain to be addressed. One of those gaps includes the wide diversity of the microbiome based on differing ethnicities and global locations, including the diversity of different ethnic groups living in the same area. Knowing the unique makeup of each diversity, let alone an individual’s microbiome and genetics, is an area of study that needs much more research before it can be used for Personalized Nutrition. Another challenge to implementing Personalized Nutrition to a wider population is the cost and access.13 On average, a private company will charge ~$300 per test. As with any health information, what is done with those results is what can make an impact on someone’s health. Once an individual has their specific genetic testing, it would be important to have qualified personnel in place to interpret the information on what action would be best to take for the individual’s overall health.


Personalized nutrition is an exciting and continually maturing possibility for more individualized health care. With more broad population-based studies and validation of current research, personalized nutrition could one day be a norm for how we treat and customize nutrition recommendations and overall health care.

Hannah Woods

Hannah Woods



Hannah Woods is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys helping others create lifestyle habits that allow them to discover freedom with nutrition and movement…. READ MORE


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