Could Precision Nutrition Be a Game Changer for Health?

The potential is there, but it’ll depend on how it’s used

Would you expect a single set of clothes to fit everyone? Of course not. Similarly, would you expect a single diet to work for everyone? Again, that’s not realistic. People differ significantly when it comes to their surroundings, medical history, daily activities, body composition, biology, genetics, and the many other factors affecting diet and health.

Society needs to move away from the one-diet-fits-all approach that’s been used for years and toward precision nutrition, an emerging field that involves tailoring diets so they better match different people’s circumstances and characteristics. Computer technology and artificial intelligence (AI) will be central to achieving more widespread precision nutrition.

Why Do We Need AI for Precision Nutrition?

A complex system of genetic, biological, behavioral, social, environmental, and economic factors and mechanisms affects and is affected by one’s diet and health. A patient’s metabolism can be influenced by their eating behaviors, sleep patterns, and stress levels, which in turn can be affected by their work, environment, and social circles. Their risk of developing cardiovascular disease can be related to not only what they eat but also their genetics, physical activity, living situation, comorbid medical conditions, and a host of other factors.

Humans can typically figure out simple direct cause-and-effect relationships, but we tend to struggle when they become more complex. Computer-aided approaches like AI could transform nutrition by helping make sense of large amounts of information and patterns that are too complex for most people to understand.

However, the impact of AI will depend on how it is actually used. When used in the right manner, AI could be a positive game changer, helping to make nutrition guidelines and recommendations much more precise and individually tailored in ways that improve diet and health. When used inappropriately, however, it could make things worse, leading to inappropriate recommendations, the introduction of bias, and the worsening of already existing disparities in nutrition and health.

How Would the AI Be Used?