Our daily personalised bread

The individualisation of what and how we eat is just around the corner. “Personalised nutrition research has exploded”, says Kate Bermingham, Lead Academic Scientist for the Personalised Nutrition Program ZOE, in an exclusive interview with the GDI. The products and services will follow.
30 May, 2023 by
Our daily personalised bread
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

GDI: Ms. Bermingham, how can we find out which food suits us the most? By analyzing our DNA? By answering some dozens of food-related questions? By just eating what tastes us best? Or what else?

Kate Bermingham: By combining all of them, and some more. The health impact of a food depends on who is eating it, how they are eating it, why they are eating it and what they are doing at that moment. We know that large variability exists in how different people respond to the same foods and a personalised approach to nutrition needs to accurately capture as much of our human individuality as possible. To truly achieve this we must overlay your biological personalisation with personalisation according to how you live your life and why you make the dietary choices that you do.

At GDI's International Food Innovation Conference , you talk about "the revolution in personalized nutrition". Who is the revolutionist? Hardware? Software? Data? Bacteria? 

There has been a shift in how we conduct research; novel technologies, remote biological testing and citizen science have enabled the collection of big data. This shift allows us to collect data at a scale, breadth, depth, resolution and precision never before possible and has revolutionised the potential for personalised research.

Und wir brauchen diese Breite, Tiefe, Auflösung und Präzision der Daten, um ein gesundes und schmackhaftes Frühstück zuzubereiten?

Health, like taste, is something very personal. From our own research, we know that your biology (including your blood fat and sugar levels, your microbiome), but also your lifestyle and dietary habits (including your meal timing, your sleep quality or your eating speed), which can vary day to day, are important considerations for health.

Wie kann ich meine Gesundheit durch eine personalisierte Ernährung verbessern?

What makes you special with regard to nutrition is not just who you are but what you do. Therefore, we believe a person can always make personalised changes to their diet and lifestyle to improve their long term health. For example, how you eat including timing and speed are areas a person can aim to improve and we share all of our insights, on the ZOE podcast, to enable change in an actionable way. Layering biological information about the foods you should eat based on how your blood fat and your blood sugar and your microbiome respond to foods will further enable a more personalised approach to nutrition.

Food is something that unites us, just think of the "Lord’s Prayer" and the term "our daily bread". Will a focus on individualized food have negative consequences for social cohesion?

In a household environment, the act of eating together is an important human ritual that benefits beyond the biological need for food. It is important that a personalised approach to nutrition takes into account the importance of social and cultural aspects related to dietary habits. We must ask people what their situation is, and take into consideration the environment in which you live and the preferences not just of you but of those around you. We should aim to recommend meals that can be consumed and enjoyed by the whole household.

Über die Jahrhunderte hinweg wurde aus Lösungen für eine bessere Gesundheit auch jeweils ein gutes Geschäft. Wird es auch dieses Mal so kommen?

It has already started. We are in an exciting era of new technologies where we can collect data via mobile apps, wearable monitors and remote clinical testing. With citizen science and machine learning we can achieve this on a scale like never before. Personalised nutrition research has exploded, along with the number of commercial products available. Our goal at ZOE is to improve people's health and we are still learning and understanding what truly really matters for a person's health. In the future, we hope to provide advice that is accessible at the population level by doing some very simple routine tests. This is new science and it will benefit everyone because by people sharing their data with scientists, then we learn more, we can make recommendations and share all of these insights in an actionable way.

Kate Bermingham spricht am 21. Juni 2023 auf der 3rd International Food Innovation Conference on 21 June 2023 about "From Big Data to Better Health: The Revolution in Personalized Nutrition. Moving beyond a one-size-fits-all approach by combining science, AI and collaboration." Sign up now!

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