As individuals we are all unique, and this is no different when it comes to our body’s nutrition needs. So why would you tell all adult women they need an average of 2000Kcals and all adult men they need 2500Kcals? In general men need more calories, but an emphasis on the ‘in general’.
If you compare the caloric needs of a very active 5ft 8” adult woman with a very fast metabolism with a 5ft 5” adult man who leads a sedentary life and has a slow metabolism the woman would probably require more calories.
To get the exact number of calories required you need to factor in gender, age, stage of life (so if you’re a woman are you pregnant, lactating, menstruating or are you going through or have gone through menopause), height, weight, how active your lifestyle is. Health status and ethnicity can also be factored in.
That is why the on-the-spot question of “How many calories should I be eating” is one of those question I often get asked that I genuinely can’t answer unless you give me all that information (and probably a calculator, because maths isn’t my favourite subject).
How Does Personalised Nutrition Work?
Personalised Nutrition is moving towards basing Nutrition advice on biological evidence of different responses individuals have to food, and nutrients in food and drinks depending on their genetic or phenotypic characteristics (1). Some Phenotypic characteristics include eye colour, hair colour, height, or the sound of your voice (there are loads more).
The trend towards a more Personalised approach when it come to Nutrition strategies is down to increased Nutrition research leading to a better understanding of the human body, and how it works. Especially with regards to food and nutrients consumed through food. Also massive advances in technology and analytical tools allow us to find out more about our body’s nutrient needs (1).
Fitness trackers are an example of that technology. Despite there being a bit of controversy among professionals as to how beneficial they are, they are an example of more Personalised Nutrition advice. They usually take you weight and height (although this is usually just at the start and it is up to you to update it), your age, gender and whether you want to lose, maintain, or gain weight. They can monitor important factors like physical activity, Blood pressure, heart rate, stress levels and sleep. You can also use Apps on your phone to monitor your calorie intake. Personally, I don’t agree with them as I feel they walk on a dangerous line between monitoring and obsession, but some people find them good.
Something a fitness tracker or App usually won’t ask is your family history. This can be an important element to creating an effective Nutrition plan. Do you have a history of heart disease in you family? If yes, then a Mediterranean type of diet might be best. Do you have a family history of Diabetes, Thyroid issues, Osteoporosis, all these things will affect your Nutritional needs, as well as factoring in your current lifestyle and body composition?
Why General Diets Don’t Work
Diets don’t take into account all these things, which is why 80% of weight loss diet fail in the long-term (2). Even more worrying is that 35% of dieting becomes obsessive and 20-25% turns into an eating disorder (3). This is probably because these diets aren’t giving the desired results…and never will.
The Future of Personalised Nutrition
There is also more research looking at advanced chemistry and artificial intelligence to study an individual’s genetics and then use that to create a Personalised Nutrition plan based on their DNA and microbiome (4). The microbiome is all the trillions of microbes that live in and on our body’s. Watch my video on Gut health to find out why our microbiome is so important to our overall health.
There is SO MUCH evidence linking a person’s genetics and environmental variables to their diet and lifestyle behaviours (5).
Other things you need to take into account are peoples food preferences, their relationship with food and how nutritious their current diet is as that would have effected their development (not just cognitive development, but other organs too)(5).
So, there is a lot to consider, and one size most definitely doesn’t fit all. The Nutrition recommendations provided by the Government are usually based on population averages, and they should be used as a template or a base. The vitamin and mineral recommendation are generally accurate for most people, but then again someone with a genetic disorder called hemochromatosis where the person absorbs too much iron from their food would require a much lower Iron intake. An athlete will require more than the recommended 0.8g of Protein per Kg of bodyweight. A very active person will also require more carbohydrates for fuel.
I believe Personalised Nutrition also needs to look at the individual’s lifestyle. Is it a busy lifestyle and how much available time do they have to prepare meals? Do they work night shifts? Do they have children? Are they on a budget? How easily can they access nutritious food? All these things need to be considered as well.
What I hope you got from this Blog is that one size doesn’t fit all, so don’t worry if your friend cut back on carbohydrates and said she feels great, but you tried it and you feel rotten. That just means it’s not for you. If you’re serious about improving your health whether it be to lose, gain or maintain you weight. Build muscle, or just improve your overall health it is best to initiate the help of a qualified Dietitian or Nutritionist. Someone with a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in Nutrition.
Not someone who completed an online certificate course or who managed to make dietary changes to their own life and improve their own health and now they want to show everyone how they did it for themselves. It’s great to educate yourself on Nutrition and if you have improved your health by doing this that’s amazing! Just remember you can’t expect what worked for you to work for everyone.
1. Ordovas JM, Ferguson LR, Tai ES, Mathers JC. Personalised nutrition and health. BMJ [Internet]. 2018 Jun 13 [cited 2022 Apr 16];361:bmj.k2173. Available from: https://www.bmj.com/content/361/bmj.k2173
2. Wing RR, Phelan S. Long-term weight loss maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr [Internet]. 2005 Jul 1 [cited 2022 Apr 16];82(1):222S-225S. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/82.1.222S
3. Andersen A. The Problem with Dieting: Eating Disorders Affecting American College Students| The Pursuit | University of Michigan School of Public Health | [Internet]. [cited 2022 Apr 16]. Available from: https://sph.umich.edu/pursuit/2020posts/the-problem-with-dieting-eating-disorders-affecting-american-college-students.html
4. Chandler R. Personalized Nutrition: What is it and How Can it Help You? | Gainful [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2022 Apr 16]. Available from: https://www.gainful.com/blog/personalized-nutrition-what-is-it-and-how-can-it-help-you/
5. Matusheski NV, Caffrey A, Christensen L, Mezgec S, Surendran S, Hjorth MF, et al. Diets, nutrients, genes and the microbiome: recent advances in personalised nutrition. Br J Nutr [Internet]. 2021 Nov [cited 2022 Apr 16];126(10):1489–97. Available from: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/diets-nutrients-genes-and-the-microbiome-recent-advances-in-personalised-nutrition/8D623DF612071485B4AD712F4D59EA33