Precision vs. personalized nutrition - what's the difference? 5 insights from UNC short course on NGx
University of North Carolina’s Nutrition Research Institute hosted a short course on Nutrigenetics, Nutrigenomics and Precision Nutrition, June 3-6. Drawing researchers, students and industry professionals from across the globe, the four-day “NGx” immersion was equal parts informative, overwhelming and inspiring! Here are five insights from the meeting.
Please note: the key themes and takeaways noted below were focus points of discussion/presentations; they do not necessarily reflect FoodMinds’ point of view.
There is nuance between “precision nutrition” and “personalized nutrition” to describe putting NGx concepts into practice. Both can refer to personalizing an individual’s diet based on her or his DNA makeup, but precision nutrition represents a stronger appreciation of evidence gaps. For example, a precision nutrition approach might offer personalized recommendations for a handful of nutrients where there is evidence to do so, not the entire diet. Personalized nutrition can imply dietary recommendations are exhaustively personalized, something that may never be possible.
Enhancing data on diverse populations is needed to advance the field, and the reliability of genetics-based nutrition recommendations. Most of the evidence used to inform genetic tests is based on data from people of European descent, so it can be challenging to accurately generalize findings between population groups. This is an issue that goes beyond the nutrition field and represents a huge opportunity for the research community.
Nutrition guidance and clinical guidelines will only become stronger by accounting for common genotypes. Meaningful genetic differences between segments of the populations (the notion of “responders vs. non-responders”) are often watered down in clinical research. By taking averages or using the bell curve approach, clusters of common variants are less detectable. From the field of pharmacogenetics, the Clinical Pharmacogenetics Implementation Consortium offers genetics-based clinical guidelines to inform prescribing decisions. This is an example of translating genetic information into practical tools for health professionals.
Integration is a future trend for direct-to-consumer (DTC) tests. Multiple presenters acknowledged the utility of DTC tests will be enhanced as they take a broader look at the whole person – for example, integrating genetics with metabolomics and information about the microbiome.
Health professionals and researchers are hungry for NGx information. Whether seeking collaboration opportunities, how-to guides for translating what genetic variants mean for food and supplement choices, or telling a client which DTC genetic testing service is most credible, there is white space to fill. Working with trusted influencers is an opportunity for differentiation and leadership within the NGx industry.
What else would you like to know about NGx? Reach out to [email protected] for additional insights and information about our specialized services for the NGx industry.
Ashley Desrosiers, MS, RD is a vice president and lead of our Personalized Wellness team at FoodMinds, a division of Padilla, in Boston.