Accelerating Personalized Nutrition in 2021
The interdisciplinary field that takes on ever greater significance this year as health experts understand its critical role in enhancing immune resilience
The global pandemic is top of mind among the world’s healthcare community as vaccine programs are mobilized. Many health experts are noting the important role that personalized nutrition (PN) can play in confronting challenges posed by the pandemic. PN is a rapidly evolving healthcare field marked by the convergence of nutrition science with innovative technology and novel research methods to inform clinical decision-making.
“Nutrition has a unique biochemical influence on the immune system,” said Michael Stroka, CEO of the ANA. “In the past, nutritional factors often have often been overlooked with regards to immunology. But that’s changing in this new climate. Personalized nutrition shows great promise in helping to improve immune resilience in the face of COVID-19.” Along with lifestyle and environmental factors, nutrition influences immune regulators that affect the immune system and many of COVID-19’s complications and comorbidities. PN is uniquely positioned to meet these challenges by providing tools, services and a specialized healthcare workforce.
PN will continue to grow as an economic driver as consumer and patient interest surges. Personalized diagnostic tools and services have made impressive strides in the form of wearable sensors, self-administered tests, and gene-based reports. Data-driven research and technology as well as AI-based algorithms will continue to gain importance as the field evolves. These technologies include self-monitoring and self-tracking capabilities, enabled by digital and wearables.
New Directions in Nutrition Research
PN research will advance in part thanks to the NIH Precision Nutrition initiative which provides funding for cutting-edge research and interdisciplinary science that will enable the field to deliver on PN. “We will see a heavy focus on novel biomarker discovery using new technologies and N-of-1 studies looking at individual responses to interventions based on repeated or continuous measurements,” Stroka said. These approaches can be mobilized to study groups of people historically underrepresented in nutrition research.
Advancing Food Science
Food science will get an overhaul thanks to innovations in technology and network medicine. We have a good understanding of the health effects of about 150 food components. Scientists are working diligently to systematically quantify thousands more in order to better understand the links between foods, nutrients, and health. “We are just now really beginning to understand the mechanisms and extent to which food impacts human health,” Stroka said.
Microbes do more than help us digest our food. We are in the midst of an explosion of microbiome research to identify new species of bacteria and how communities of bacteria throughout and around the body--not just in the gut--function. With more information about the types and functions of various microbial communities, we will make great strides in understanding their potential effects in health and disease. A new frontier in microbial science is microbiomics, the study of the interactions between microbial genes and host genes. Microbiome-based testing companies, therapies, and products are cropping up to meet growing public interest in the microbiome. In light of the global pandemic, microbial influence in immune and mental health are areas of special interest.
Mental Health Nutrition
Even pre-pandemic, nutritional psychiatry was emerging as a field unto itself. Researchers are exploring biological pathways that mediate the connections between food, behavior, brain function, and mental health. Intervention points continue to be explored, with the immune system and microbiome-gut-brain axis rising to the top as key targets. With increased concern for mental health, given upheavals and reduced human contact in 2020, mental health is sure to take center stage in personalized nutrition in 2021.
Equipping Practitioners for the Future
The pandemic is catalyzing the shift towards digital and virtual nutrition education and practice. The ANA is committed to equipping a highly trained, accessible workforce that can meet society’s needs.
Recently, the ANA launched the Nutritional Genomics Training & Certification program. Approved for Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits, it offers nutrition experts and other healthcare professionals the skills to leverage nutritional genomics to create personalized nutrition interventions. Successful candidates are eligible for the first-ever third-party accredited Certified Nutritional Genomics credential.
“This certification program is crucial for nutrition practitioners to learn and apply the advances and benefits of nutritional genomics,” Stroka said. “It represents a leap forward in equipping practitioners for the future of personalized nutrition practice.”
The American Nutrition Association
The American Nutrition Association is the professional association for the science and practice of personalized nutrition. A non-profit, the ANA envisions a society of Healthy People, Powered by Nutrition. The ANA Educates, Certifies, Advocates and Connects to fulfill its mission to Champion the Science and Practice of Personalized Nutrition. For more information, visit theANA.org. Continue the conversation on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Shawna McGregor at 917-971-7852 or firstname.lastname@example.org.