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Panel discusses effect of individualized diets on chronic disease risk


Today (April 4, 2005) at the 2005 Experimental Biology Conference, the Dairy Council of California sponsored a thought-provoking symposium titled "Individualized nutrition as a tool to prevent and treat chronic disease." During the symposium attended by over 250 people, researchers, health professionals, nutritional scientists, and a panel of experts discussed how the progression from broad, population-based guidelines to more finely-tuned dietary recommendations and specific food choices will ultimately result in an improvement in health and chronic disease prevention across the population.

Dr. Johanna Dwyer, National Institutes of Health, commenced the symposium by providing an overview of the past, present and future of individualized dietary recommendations. Specifically she noted that the interest in optimizing health is high and that more sophisticated consumers will expect and demand more tailored food choices. This presents a great opportunity for the nutrition community; however, she cautioned that if the nutrition community does not move on this topic others will in a less scientific and credible fashion.

She also noted that the individualization movement has been driven by consumer demand, individual preferences, the need for personal ownership of health, readiness for change, reducing chronic disease and optimizing health.

In his presentation, symposium speaker Dr. Bruce German, University of California Davis, reminded the audience, "… it is possible and necessary to apply our emerging understanding of an individual’s health status to individualize their diet and match specific foods and their components to health needs." He discussed the need for a new definition of health that encompasses not just freedom from disease but protection from pathogens, prevention of chronic disease, attaining optimal metabolism and improving performance.

German added that technology is one factor driving the movement towards increased individualization, and ultimately will enable the application of it. "Technology will play a vital role in the increasing demand toward individualized dietary recommendations," said German. "Consumers at an increasing rate are purchasing products that they believe will best meet their individual nutritional needs and technology will lead the way in determining what those needs are."

Although there are some basic nutritional guidelines that people should follow, one population-based diet will not work for everyone according to Dr. Ron Krauss, Children’s Hospital Center. During his presentation he elaborated on this point, showing lipid research which has identified types of diets that work for different genotypes of people. For example, in some individuals a low-fat diet can actually be harmful to heart health.

Dr. Myles Faith from the University of Pennsylvania concluded the symposium by discussing the need for a behavior change approach in helping people understand and apply an individualized tactic to obesity prevention and treatment. Using an individualized approach to prevent and treat obesity can be practiced in many arenas beyond the traditional one-on-one counseling. These arenas include public health, policy, research, HMOs and other large agencies and education organizations. Optimal results will be obtained if efforts are coordinated across all arenas.

Kristy Babb | EurekAlert!
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