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Analysis Science and Politics of Nutrition

Personalised nutrition and health

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k2173 (Published 13 June 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:bmj.k2173

Food for thought

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  1. Jose M Ordovas, professor1 2 3,
  2. Lynnette R Ferguson, professor4,
  3. E Shyong Tai, professor5,
  4. John C Mathers, professor6
  1. 1JM-USDA-HNRCA at Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA
  2. 2Centro Nacional Investigaciones Cardiovasculares, Madrid, Spain
  3. 3IMDEA Food Institute, CEI UAM + CSIC, Madrid, Spain
  4. 4Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  5. 5National University of Singapore, Singapore
  6. 6Human Nutrition Research Centre, Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
  1. Correspondence to: J M Ordovas jose.ordovas{at}tufts.edu

Jose Ordovas and colleagues consider that nutrition interventions tailored to individual characteristics and behaviours have promise but more work is needed before they can deliver

Dietary factors are well recognised contributors to common diseases, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer.123 Despite the known link between dietary patterns and disease, interventions to alter dietary habits and to improve public health and wellbeing have had limited impact. Personalisation of interventions may be more effective in changing behaviour4 that will affect health outcomes.5 In this article we consider the evidence for personalised nutrition.

What is personalised nutrition and what is it used for?

There is no agreed definition of personalised nutrition. For the purposes of this review, we define it as an approach that uses information on individual characteristics to develop targeted nutritional advice, products, or services. Gibney et al6 describe it as an approach that “assists individuals in achieving a lasting dietary behaviour change that is beneficial for health.” Personalised nutrition partially overlaps with related terms such as precision nutrition, nutrigenomics, nutrigenetics, nutritional genomics, etc (box 1).

Box 1

Descriptors and definitions

In common with other scientific fields in their early development, multiple concepts and descriptors are used in personalised nutrition, sometimes without rigorous definition. In addition to the term personalised nutrition, many other terms are used—for example, precision nutrition, stratified nutrition, tailored nutrition, and individually tailored nutrition. We have attempted to group the descriptors as follows:

• Stratified and tailored nutrition are similar (if not synonymous). These approaches attempt to group individuals with shared characteristics and to deliver nutritional intervention/advice that is suited to each group

• Personalised nutrition and individually tailored nutrition mean similar things and go a step further by attempting to deliver nutritional intervention/advice suited to each individual

• Precision nutrition is the most ambitious of the descriptors. It suggests that it is …

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