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There are many unique nutritional tips. But there is growing evidence that people react differently to food, given differences in biology, lifestyle and gut microbiomes.
The National Institutes of Health wants to learn more about these individual responses through a Precision Health Nutrition Study, and this week researchers began recruiting participants to take part in the study at 14 locations across the United States
It is part of the All of us research initiative that aims to use data from one million participants to understand how differences in our biology, lifestyle and environment can affect our health.
Holly Nicastro from the NIH Office of Nutrition Research says the goal of the precision nutrition study is to help develop tailored approaches for people. “We will use machine learning and artificial intelligence to develop algorithms that can predict how individuals will react to a given food or diet,” says Nicastro.
The study will take into account a person’s genetics, gut microbes and other lifestyle, environmental and social factors “to help each individual develop dietary recommendations that improve overall health”, explains Nicastro.
THE Dietary Guidelines for Americans are useful for establishing overall recommendations for healthy eating, but Nicastro points to studies that show just how much variation there can be in how individuals respond to specific foods or diets. For example, a published study showed that even when people eat identical meals, their triglyceride, glucose, and insulin response levels may vary.
As part of the study, some participants will live in a dormitory-style setting for two-week periods where they alternate three different types of diets. Researchers will measure body weight and vital signs, including blood pressure and body composition. Blood, urine, saliva and stool samples will be collected and researchers will assess the microbiomes. Continuous blood glucose monitors can track changes in blood sugar.
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At a time when diet-related illnesses are a leading cause of premature death, the goal is to help people live healthier lives. Nutrition plays a vital role in human development and in the prevention and treatment of disease.
Each year, more than one million Americans die from diet-related diseases like heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. And people living at a lower socioeconomic level are disproportionately affected by diet-related chronic diseases. The NIH aims to recruit people from diverse backgrounds to participate in the study.
There is a growing movement to integrate food and nutrition into health care and mounting proofs that providing prescriptions for fruits and vegetables can encourage people to eat better and manage their weight and blood sugar.
Precision nutrition takes the trend one step further, with the NIH predicting that it will become a mainstay of medical care by 2030. The taxpayer-funded study would cost around $170 million more the next five years.