Genetic-Based Dietary Guidelines Improve Nutrition

Compared with a one-size-fits-all approach, personalized dietary recommendations based on an individual's genetic makeup improve his or her eating habits.

Compared with a one-size-fits-all approach, personalized dietary recommendations based on an individual’s genetic makeup improve his or her eating habits, according to researchers from the University of Toronto.

For their study published in the latest edition of PLOS One, the investigators tracked caffeine, sodium, vitamin C, and sugar intake among 138 adults who were randomized to receive either DNA-based or standard nutrition advice on those dietary components.

After 12 months, the researchers discovered that those who received DNA-based advice demonstrated health improvements. In terms of sodium, for instance, those who were told that they carried a gene linked to salt intake and high blood pressure significantly lowered their sodium consumption, compared with those who received standard advice.

"We found that people who receive DNA-based advice improve their diet to a greater extent than those who receive the standard dietary advice,” said Ahmed El-Sohemy, an associate professor in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto and Canada Research Chair in Nutrigenomics, in a press release. “They're also the ones who need to change it the most."

The study was based on the concept of nutrigenomics, a field of research dedicated to understanding why certain people respond differently to foods than others. Through personalized nutrition, nutrigenomics can help health care professionals tailor dietary recommendations to a patient’s DNA.

“One of the major problems that we have found regarding one-size-fits-all dietary recommendations is people's adherence to them,” said José M. Ordovás, director of Nutrition and Genomics at Tufts University, in the press release. “This work supports the notion that DNA-based recommendations can be more beneficial for the individual and, in addition, will increase his or her compliance, which will increase our ability of preventing chronic diseases using dietary approaches.”