If you think about it, our perspective of health has been ‘one size fits all’ for the past who knows how many years, despite each and every human being physically and mentally unique.
What is personalised nutrition, exactly?
The vitamins and minerals we consume on a daily basis affect our body’s ability to maintain our health and keep us (you) ticking along. They affect how our genes function but – as well as this - our genes tell our bodies how to interact with the nutrients we take in. Furthermore, every person leads a lifestyle with an activity level and diet that is unique to them, meaning in working out the extra nutrients that you could benefit from, your lifestyle has to be considered, too.
Personalised nutrition takes all of this into account, using the complicated relationship of nutrients and genes as well as your diet and activity level to devise advice that’s tailored to you.
Personalised nutrition and diet
Personalised nutrition looks at the shortfalls in your diet and how you can improve them, rather than the shortfalls of – say – everyone in the UK. We know that not enough of us are eating two portions of oily fish per week, but what if you are? Or what if you can’t eat fish, so you require an omega 3 intake through other means?
A study, led by Professor John Mathers and the Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University, found personalised nutrition ‘helped people to make bigger and more appropriate changes to their diets’, more than conventional advice like eat more fruit and vegetables . The study gave participants nutrition advice that was tailored to them, such as specifically reducing their red meat intake or cutting down on dairy products.
Professor John Mathers said “Many of us know that we could improve our health and wellbeing if we eat better – however, we find it really difficult to change our eating habits and to maintain those improved eating patterns. With personalised nutrition, you know exactly what needs changing and you’re given certainty that your health will improve if those changes are made.
What is wrong with a generic multivitamin?
Let’s be honest, taking a generic multivitamin supplement can be extremely beneficial. These supplements have been formulated based on sound evidence to contain the nutrients most people would generally need on a daily basis. However, if you’re after something that helps fill your own unique nutritional shortfall then a more personalised approach to multivitamins might be for you.
Currently, someone who works in an office might be taking exactly the same multivitamin as someone who works as a landscape gardener. Whilst a multivitamin acts as an insurance policy and enables you to relax in the knowledge that you’re keeping your nutrient intake topped up, this is not necessarily the best way for you to improve your health.
Let’s take the office worker and compare him with the landscaper. The office worker is probably lacking in vitamin D due to not having the time to get outside for enough time to synthesise the recommended minimum levels of vitamin D, leaving him deficient, whereas the landscaper gets enough vitamin D through sunlight due to working outside. Both are taking the same multivitamin and therefore the same amount of vitamin D, when in fact they need an entirely different dose.
And that’s between late March and September, the only months during which the sun’s UVB rays are strong enough to garner enough vitamin D through, so seasonality also plays a role when it comes to personalising your nutrition.
The point is, a multivitamin covers you to a certain extent. But is it the best option if you’re looking to be as healthy as you can possibly be? No.
Personalisation isn’t just about vitamins and minerals
Personalising your nutrition doesn’t stop at multivitamins. You can personalise all of your nutrition and protein is another aspect that benefits from customisation.
There are all sorts of factors that come into play when it comes to how much protein you should be consuming per day, whether you’re looking to gain muscle or lose weight are two common ones. Advice tailored to you, on whether you have a protein shortfall and how you can adjust that, will greatly benefit you in the long run.
How can you invest in personalised nutrition?
First things first, if you’re looking to personalise your nutrition you need to know exactly what you’re putting into your body on a daily basis, which is easier said than done if you’re relying on memory.
For an accurate representation of your regular diet there are apps available for your phone that handily allow you to input what you’re eating daily. Crucially, though, you need this app to include a measurement of your nutrient intake – like how much vitamin D or vitamin C is in the foods you’re consuming – rather than simply the type of foods you’re eating and their calories.