Personal Space

The Story of the Year for 2019: Seeking Personalization

One size fits all is dead. Everyone is on the hunt for precision, personalized nutrition. Any number of companies will tell you how your unique DNA profile affects your dietary needs. People are finding an identity in their diets. Vegan, keto, low-carb, or whatever fits – increasingly people will fiercely defend the diets that they’ve claimed for themselves. You are what you eat has a whole new meaning. Scientists are searching for the tools to support precision personalization, but the science is not yet mature. We have clues, but no answers.

This was the biggest story of 2019. It’s not just one story. It’s a theme that we found everywhere we looked.

A Scramble for Personalization in the Diet Industry

WW is no longer the company that’s watching your weight. Instead it’s into wellness that works through personalization. Personalization was the buzzword when WW launched their program to support everyone’s 2020 New Year’s resolutions. They called it myWW.

And then yesterday, Nutrisystem shook things up with its own personalization strategy. The company is offering dietary plans tailored according to body type, personal goals, and food tastes. WW stock dropped more than eight percent. Stock in Nutrisystem’s parent, Tivity, rose a full percentage point.

However, the real news here is that people are not so much looking for a short-term diet to drop a few pounds. They’re more often looking for a personal dietary plan that will fit their unique identity for the rest of their lives. Can the weight loss industry adapt? We’re not sure, but they are trying.

Results Will Vary

The number one most read story for us in 2019 was all about how results vary in dietary approaches to obesity. Some people have amazing results with a low-carb diet. Others will do better on a low-fat diet, even though that’s not especially trendy these days.

Right now, there’s a lot of scientific buzz around the concept of precision nutrition. Perhaps the emerging science of metabolomics will deliver on this promise. Or maybe it’s all hype.

The truth is that science cannot yet deliver on the huge expectations for personalization in nutrition and health. Scientists are looking for answers to satisfy the masses. Likewise, all kinds of business are trying to serve up personalized approaches. Customers are lining up for them.

Buzz Outpacing Science

Personalization created more buzz in our space than any other story in 2019. But we’re still waiting for the scientific substance to become clear. Meanwhile, finding what works best over the long term for each of us is a process of trial and error. A skilled dietitian can help.

Personal Space, photograph © Sebastian Oliva / flickr

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December 27, 2019

2 Responses to “The Story of the Year for 2019: Seeking Personalization”

  1. December 27, 2019 at 9:11 am, David Brown said:

    In a 2003 Orlando Sentinel article entitled ‘Hunger Confronts Bigger Issue’ obesity expert Barry Popkin repeatedly mentioned the global increase in the use of vegetable oils for food preparation. Excerpts: “If you go back to those same villages or slum areas today … their diet includes a lot of vegetable oil and some processed-food products that contain added sugar. Some animal-source foods — be they chicken, beef, pork, goat or fish products — are consumed, as well. … In China … Rice and flour intake is down, and animal-source foods such as pork and poultry and fish are way up, and the steepest increase is in the use of edible vegetable oils for cooking … People are eating more diverse and tasty meals; in fact, edible oil is a most-important ingredient in enhancing the texture and taste of dishes … The edible-oil increase is found throughout Asia and Africa and the Middle East as a major source of change.”

    When I read that article for the first time, I was certain the increase in meat intake had nothing to do with the obesity epidemic. 13 years later, a paragraph published in BMJ openheart caused me to reconsider. “We now know that major changes have taken place in the food supply over the last 100 years, when food technology and modern agriculture led to enormous production of vegetable oils high in ω-6 fatty acids, and changed animal feeds from grass to grains, thus increasing the amount of ω-6 fatty acids at the level of LA (from oils) and arachidonic acid (AA) (from meat, eggs, dairy). This led to very high amounts of ω-6 fatty acids in the food supply for the first time in the history of human beings.”

    Any dietary approach that reduces added sugars, linoleic acid, and arachidonic acid intake is likely to be a successful approach for most people carrying excess fat on their bodies. Ease of success will depend on how an individual’s metabolic machinery is configured. There is a simple tool that can be used to determine the best approach for the individual. Eran Segal explains how to use it in this video presentation.

  2. December 29, 2019 at 8:51 am, John DiTraglia said:

    Yeah, “personalization” (it’s underlined as a spelling error – not a word here) can be a devious tactic for disregarding good statistical evidence to the contrary.