Artificial intelligence can help map out the best diet for each individual


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Custom diets are the next frontier in nutritional science – and artificial intelligence (AI) will play a key role in figuring out what each of us should and shouldn’t eat.

An ambitious program called Correct nutrition for health (NPH) kicks off in the US in January 2022 when the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awards $170 million to fund organizations nationwide to conduct a five-year study involving 10,000 people. participation.

CNN spoke with Holly Nicastro, program director at the NIH nutrition research office and NPH coordinator, about the project’s goals and scope and how AI can benefit people’s health. us by helping to devise the optimal diet for each individual.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

CNN: There’s been a lot of information about healthy eating. Why is your approach different, and what is the goal?

Holly Nicastro: There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, and there’s no one-size-fits-all diet to stay healthy. NPH’s goal is to use AI to develop algorithms that predict individual responses to foods and diets.

Our approach is different because we are looking at a comprehensive set of factors, many of which are not normally examined in nutritional science. The NPH study will examine how genes, microbiome, biology and physiology, environment, lifestyle, health history, psychological, and social determinants of health influence responses. individual for the diet. Furthermore, we will be studying one of the largest and most diverse groups of participants for an accurate nutrition study.

CNN: Who are your participants?

Nicastro: Participants for NPH will be recruited from All of us study program, run by the NIH. All of Us is inviting one million people across the United States to help build one of the most diverse health databases in history. Most of the participants came from previously underrepresented groups in the biomedical sciences. Participants All of us provided information through surveys, electronic health records, biosamples, and digital health technologies such as Fitbits. The diversity of the All We Study Program cohort will allow NPH to consider factors such as age, sex, race, and ethnicity.

CNN: What data are you collecting and how do you analyze it?

Nicastro: NPH incorporates three modules. In Module 1, information about the normal daily diet of all participants will be collected. In Module 2, a small group of Module 1 participants will eat three different diets selected by the researchers. For Module 3, a smaller and separate group of participants from Module 1 will participate in a two-week study at research centers where their food will be fed by researchers. careful control.

Each module will end with a meal challenge quiz. Participants fasted overnight and then had a standard breakfast or drink so we could check their responses, such as blood glucose levels, for several hours.

We will use mobile and wearable photography apps that can passively collect information about what people are eating. Participants will wear continuous blood glucose monitors and accelerometers to collect information on physical activity, sedentary time, and sleep. The researchers will also analyze various biomarkers – such as blood lipids and hormone levels – and the fecal microbiota.

NPH’s research will link data from the All of Us program and analyze it using AI. This approach creates an unprecedented opportunity to redirect nutrition research to personalized nutrition because unlike human researchers, AI can screen and process quantities of food. huge data quickly and translate the connections between data points into algorithms. These can predict an individual’s response to food and diet, taking into account the roles of genes, proteins, microbiome, metabolism as well as environmental factors and life style.

CNN: Who will benefit most from precision nutrition approaches?

Nicastro: Some of the earliest direct benefits may be available to people at risk for diabetes or those who have difficulty regulating their blood sugar. Skin-mounted blood glucose meters allow us to see how an individual’s blood sugar will change after eating specific foods, food groups or meals, and then predict responses. It is based on individual characteristics. This will help us develop tailored plans to prevent large fluctuations in blood sugar.

We’re also using precise nutrition methods to see how well we can predict other responses to the diet, including changes in blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, and more. or triglycerides, mood and cognition.

CNN: What do we really eat and how much can we improve our health through diet?

Nicastro: Poor diet is one of the leading causes of preventable disease and death around the world, and a major driver of health care costs. Our diet affects growth, development, risk and severity of disease, and overall health. Worldwide, nearly 40% of adults are obese or overweight, more than 30% have hypertension and other chronic diet-related diseases are on the rise. recent research have shown that about one in five deaths can be attributed to poor diet. Improving our diets has enormous potential to change the health of the world.

If everyone followed population-wide guidance, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we should see improvement. These guidelines often focus on including nutrient-dense foods and limiting added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. However, this one-size-fits-all approach has only gotten us so far. We see some degree of individual variation in participant responses in most dietary and nutritional intervention studies, and patients and consumers alike are increasingly looking for alternative methods. suitable.

CNN: I’m sure! When will customized dietary advice be made available to the general public?

Nicastro: Correct nutrition has been made. Clinicians will make different recommendations based on someone’s medical record, health history, or health and fitness goals. For example, recommendations for someone looking to manage their diabetes will be very different from recommendations for someone who needs to increase muscle mass.

Nutrition advice will become more and more accurate in the years to come. In the short term, more data points will be used to generate more relevant recommendations. In the longer term, I expect to see the NPH-defined predictors used in the standardization process by healthcare professionals. This may involve patients using new technologies such as continuous blood glucose monitors or smart toilets that analyze fecal microbial composition in real time, or it may involve testing. Simple genetic signature test.

For us to realize the full benefits of precise nutritional approaches, it is essential to research and address barriers to following dietary recommendations. Correct approaches should focus on dietary recommendations that not only optimize someone’s health, but are easy for an individual to follow based on resources, lifestyle, interests and preferences. their own abilities.


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