Personalized diet

A personalized diet is more than a diet. It is the WAY for a better YOU.

When it comes to diet, nutrition and dietary habits, all of us appear to be THE experts. What we eat is the only environmental factor that we can control throughout our lives: every day and several times per day. From the day we are born until the day we die, we make nutritional choices and we develop preferences based on our own likes, influences and lifestyle. By having such an everyday training and “experience”, we tend to consider ourselves “experts” and follow the one “healthy” dietary pattern that best fits each and single one of us. But, can this behavior be named as following a personalized diet?

Do you believe that you know everything about you? Are you sure that you know how your organism works, what exactly your organism needs and how you can reach your optimal potential, only by being healthy?

Scientific community and the governmental organizations collaborate (or at least they should) to provide public with dietary guidelines for health maintenance and disease prevention. These guidelines address what people should eat or should avoid and explain qualitative and quantitative criteria to promote health and prevent multifactorial diseases. Dietary guidelines are not the same around the world and, in fact, they do present important differences among countries. Moreover, these guidelines are not always concomitant with the latest scientific evidence because they are influenced by other-than-scientific criteria. One example is the recent  Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA)  that have raised a great debate among different parties, regarding the role that these guidelines play on Americans wellbeing, disease prevention, nutritional status etc. The current debate has led to the public petition to change the name of these DGA, since there is a great body of scientific knowledge that has not been considered in those. Thus, these 2015 guidelines could be characterized incomplete and/or confusing for the general public.

However, public dietary guidelines (with or without debate) is not enough when it comes to a personalized diet. And that is because one size does NOT fit all. The ultimate goal of disease prevention, healthy living, healthy aging and wellness depends on TWO fundamental sources of information:

1. genotypic and 2. phenotypic. That means that our unique genetic predisposition (genotypic information) should accompany our current way of being and living (phenotypic information).  A diet, a pattern or a concrete lifestyle cannot be considered personalized if these two fundamental information are not combined.

The understanding of our inner mechanisms includes the knowledge of our genetic fingerprint. Our DNA writes our “book of life” and defines what makes us unique. Although we, humans, are about  99% identical with each other, the remaining 1% can describe differences not only in the color of our hair, eyes or skin but also in the way we eat, exercise, sleep and live longer. This information is crucial, if we wish to increase our awareness and perception concerning what can makes us healthy or ill. In the post-genome era, where the whole genome sequencing is getting more and more affordable, genetic tests that promise personalized dietary advice are geometrically expanding. That means that the genotyping technique and the laboratory experiments move fast into the practice, from bench to bedside, as we like to say.  Nowadays, it is very easy for one to find and buy genetic tests that promise to reveal the secrets of wellness and personalization.

However, we should start recognizing not only the qualitative criteria before choosing a genetic test, but also the phenotypic information that should be combined before personalized recommendations can be formulated. A personalized diet is never just a diet. It includes and affects various aspects of our lifestyle. A personalized diet is part of a healthy lifestyle. Their accurate balance and adaptation is a personalized service that can only be achieved by a multidisciplinary team of trained scientists and health professional experts. There are a lot of practical, relatively easy things, we can do in our everyday life to shift towards healthier choices and reduce potential genetic risk we inherit from our parents. But we should not do it alone.

A personalized diet is more than a diet. It is the WAY for a better YOU.

 

by Dr. Valentini Konstantinidou



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