Better dietary patterns have been linked to better health outcomes for years, but not every diet is right for every person.  Recent evidence suggests that many people could benefit from personalized nutrition, that is, diets that are adapted to an individual’s particular needs.  The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for example, suggests that, in the case of obesity, personalized nutrition interventions could lead to greater weight loss than non-personalized strategies.  In addition to the potential health benefits of personalized nutrition, there is evidence that people are more receptive to, and therefore more likely to follow, health-promoting information when it is personalized.

Personalized nutrition at the individual level, however, is costly and difficult to implement on a large scale. A more feasible approach may be to customize diets at the group level.  Preliminary studies suggest that metabotyping may be a promising group-level diet strategy.  The underlying idea behind metabotyping is to identify and create groups of metabolic phenotypes based on factors such as diet, anthropometric measures, clinical parameters, metabolomics data, and the gut microbiota.  An optimal diet can then be tailored to fit the needs of each distinct metabotype group.

A Perspective, “Metabotyping—A Potential Personalized Nutrition Strategy for Precision Prevention of Cardiometabolic Disease,” published in Advances in Nutrition, the international review journal of the American Society for Nutrition, explores the concept of metabotyping and examines the latest metabotyping studies.  Specifically, the authors looked at how metabotyping may be used as a nutritional strategy for the prevention of cardiometabolic disease, including metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

A key challenge in metabotyping is determining which underlying parameters to use to create metabotypes that will respond favorably to a distinct nutritional strategy.  The authors discussed a variety of anthropometric, biochemical, and clinical cardiometabolic measures as well as gut microbiota and metabolites that studies have used to determine metabotypes.  They did, however, note that “given the heterogeneity in choices of variables which can be used to cluster into metabotypes, it is difficult to compare metabotypes between studies and populations.”

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Another challenge of metabotyping is implementing this strategy successfully in health care settings.  Even if it can be proven that diets based on metabotyping are effective, studies have shown that long-term adherence to personalized nutrition strategies is low.

In summary, the authors believe that “much more work is needed to investigate whether responses to particular diets and dietary items are indeed metabotype-specific and whether diets tailored for metabotypes could lead to health improvements that are clinically meaningful.”  If so, “finding easily measured biomarkers of metabotypes is our highest priority, to allow the tailoring of diets for optimal prevention at a large scale.”

Reference Marie Palmnäs, Carl Brunius, Lin Shi, Agneta Rostgaard-Hansen, Núria Estanyol Torres, Raúl González-Domínguez, Raul Zamora-Ros, Ye Lingqun Ye, Jytte Halkjær, Anne Tjønneland, Gabriele Riccardi, Rosalba Giacco, Giuseppina Costabile, Claudia Vetrani, Jens Nielsen, Cristina Andres-Lacueva, Rikard Landberg. Perspective: Metabotyping—A Potential Personalized Nutrition Strategy for Precision Prevention of Cardiometabolic Disease. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmz121.

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