What are the possibilities with personalized nutrition?

By Ida Kleinau

Can our DNA tell us what we should and shouldn’t eat? This is at least what is promised by the concept of personalized nutrition. As a Master student in Biotechnology and Food Science, I of course find this concept very fascinating and promising. Therefore, my master thesis will focus on which opportunities that Personalized Nutrition may imply, especially when it comes to preventing diseases via food and diet.

Personalized nutrition is an application of the research area “Nutrigenomics” which examines the integration between nutrients and DNA. Both personalized nutrition and Nutrigenomics has received increased attention since the beginning of the 21th century. Milestones of this development were for example the launching of the Journal of Nutrigenetics and Nutrigenomics and the initiation of the four year long EU founded project Food4Me. The scientific field has now also taken the step into highly considered journals such as Nature and Cell, with papers published within the personalized nutrition area in 2015 and 2016.

It is not just in the scientific world that personalized nutrition is a hot topic. Moreover, personalized nutrition is in line with big trends in consumer’s food and eating patterns such as individualization and the insight that food and nutrition affects our health. The field of personalized nutrition is therefore seen as an area with interesting business opportunities. Some companies have already acted on this opportunity: last year Campbell Soup Company invested 32 million dollars in the startup habit.com which provides personalized nutrition plans based on at-home test kits. These test kits measure both biomarkers from the blood and from the genes which then is evaluated by experts in biology and nutrition to customize a personalized diet.

Although the personalized nutrition concept is promising, it has not yet succeeded to live up to its expectations. The main reasons why are the questioning of the validity of the linking of certain genes with nutrient intake and that the food industry could not find a suitable business model[1]. During my master thesis project at Healthy Marketing Team I am going to thoroughly examine the area of personalized nutrition and its ability to prevent inherited diseases. I will also study how the concept of personalized nutrition can move from being merely something for the technology and “my disease” oriented consumer (HMT’s Technology Stakeholders) to become an appealing concept for lifestyle and early mass consumers. This includes an analysis of the opportunities the business community and the consumers may have of this concept.

Are you also intrigued by the concept of personalized nutrition and would like to know more? Get in touch with me! Taking into consideration that I still am on an early stage of my project, I am still quite flexible regarding the direction of my work.

Ida Kleinau
Research Student at Healthy Marketing Team 2017
Student at Faculty of Engineering at Lund University, Master of Science in Engineering, Biotechnology

[1] Kuhn, S., Walsh, M. 2012. Developments in personalised nutrition. Nutrition Bulletin, 37, 380-383.