On September 11, 2020 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Council of Councils approved the concept for a new NIH Common Fund program: “Nutrition for Precision Health, Powered by the All of Us Research Program.”  Nutrition for Precision Health seeks to move away from population-based nutrition advice in order to provide personalized nutritional guidance based on a deeper understanding of the complex interactions between an individual’s diet, genes, proteins, microbiome, metabolism, environment, and lifestyle.  Moreover, the initiative seeks to leverage the latest advances in artificial intelligence to develop algorithms to predict individual responses to specific foods and dietary patterns.

According to Dr. Holly Nicastro, ASN member and Program Director of the NIH’s Nutrition for Precision Health, “we define precision nutrition as the goal of individualized, actionable dietary recommendations that help people decide what, when, why, and how to eat to optimize their health and quality of life.”  Moreover, the NIH’s Precision Health website notes, “precision nutrition is taking the personalization trend to the next level, with NIH predicting it will become a mainstay in medical care by 2030.”

Coupling Nutrition for Precision Health with the All of Us Research Program sets the initiative on the right path.  The All of Us Research Program seeks to recruit one million people across the United States to build one of the most diverse health databases in history.  The program is encouraging participants from all backgrounds to register so that researchers can use the data to learn how each individual’s biology, lifestyle, and environment affect their health.  Dr. Nicastro explained, “the fundamental idea is that more diversity in research—be it diversity in ethnicity, environment or life circumstances—will help close information gaps and pave the way for more tailored and effective health care approaches down the line.”

Following the NIH’s lead, NUTRITION 2021 LIVE ONLINE, ASN’s annual online meeting, featured sessions dedicated to precision nutrition and related topics, including:

  • Personalized Nutrition: Where Emerging Science Meets Consumer Health Needs: ASN member Marissa McCormick, MS, RD, chaired a discussion touching on such topics as emerging science and technology in personalized nutrition as well as the retail market for personalized nutrition.
  • The Field of Precision Nutrition: Hype or Hope?: ASN member and AJCN Dennis Bier MD Young Career Editor Kevin Klatt chaired a symposium examining individual variability in response to diet interventions.  Moreover, speakers will explore key methodological limitations that currently impede further advances in the field of precision nutrition.
  • The Global Nutrition Transition: Precision Nutrition and Hidden Hunger: ASN member David Heber, MD, PhD, led a discussion that explores how metabolic responses differ with varying dietary patterns as well as how precision nutrition may be helpful in preventing hidden hunger.
  • Diversity in Nutrition Research at NIH: Research and Professional Development Opportunities: ASN member and Chair of ASN’s Minority and Diversity Affairs Committee, Sonia Vega-López, PhD, chaired a session emphasizing the need for research targeting minority populations.  Moreover, speakers will introduce attendees to existing special population cohort studies, explaining how to access the studies’ datasets for further research.

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ASN members interested in learning more about precision nutrition should view the  Precision Nutrition: Research Gaps and Opportunities Workshop.  This webinar was presented by the NIH on January 11-12, 2021, but is available on demand to view at any time.  Among the topics, speakers discussed how artificial intelligence and deep-learning techniques may be used to generate individualized dietary recommendations and algorithms for people suffering from diet-related chronic diseases.

If you are currently conducting research in the field of precision nutrition, please consider publishing your findings in an ASN journal.  We’ll make sure that your important findings are quickly disseminated around the world for maximum impact.

Call for Research: Nutrigenomics and Precision Nutrition

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provides a forum for evidence in the emerging fields of nutrigenomics and precision nutrition. Led by AJCN Associate Editor Lorraine Brennan, BA, PhD, this new section will play an integral role in the publication and dissemination of this evidence as it becomes available.

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