As humans, we crave food. Not just any food, but particular foods. Pregnant women crave weird food combinations of sweet, sour and bitter foods; people with metabolic conditions crave odd foods, people who are malnourished may develop strange cravings. There is a reason for this strange and random phenomenon: the body is desparate for a particular nutrient or food element. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, CSIRO, the lead Australian federal research agency, has taken the cue and is now researching ways to personalize diets according to a particular individual’s needs.
This makes meal planning much easier for people faced with nutritional issues, and provides personalization for portions and particular ingredients.
The aim of the research is to be able to determine what food nutrients an individual needs based on lifestyle and genetics. The person under observation wears a digital device with a sensor. It monitors the body’s nutrient requirements and reports on the expected caloric, vitamin and mineral need for the day. The data is then fed to a computer or printer for printing.
This may seem like a long shot. However, where lifestyle diseases and other inherited and lifestyle diseases are concerned, this may be a feasible solution. These diseases tend to run in families, and this is a way to break that cycle. One obvious example in particular, are those people who are latent diabetics, proper nutrition with an individualized diet may help them to beat the odds and forestall the disease. For those who are genetically prone to have hypertension, as well as those who have thyroid and hormonal problems, this personalized diet planner could be a breakthrough.
For most diabetics, there is always the danger of balancing sugar and carbohydrates. Overweight diabetics are advised to exercise and lose weight. However, the effort to exercise can also put sugar balance at risk. If their sugar levels are not constantly monitored, they can suffer from either too much or too little sugar in their bloodstream.
Meal Planning for Metabolic Disorders Linked to DNA
A wearable device that constantly monitors the body’s blood sugar level has not yet been developed. However, there are efforts already underway to have this functionality in wearables. Apple is purportedly trying to extend the capabilities of the Apple Watch to be a health monitoring system which is capable of reading blood pressure, pulse, body temperature, and blood sugar levels. This is not a race to be the first to market for this type of device. However, it is a positive step in the right direction to help those with metabolic and genetic issues.
There is a second aspect to the ongoing CSIRO research. They intend to use the data gathered from the constant monitoring to recommend food choices that fit the person’s DNA, health profile and lifestyle. With a morning reading of the expected nutrient requirements, a smartphone app or computer program can create a daily menu based on the readings, from a database of food and food products. This makes meal planning much easier for people faced with nutritional issues, and provides personalization for portions and particular ingredients. It makes sticking with a healthy diet not only easier, but far more effective.
The other component of this meal planning system involves integrating the device with a smartphone in order to read and interpret food labels. It can be done by having the phone/device read the nutrition label, or perhaps QR codes will be put on packaging to make it easier for mobile devices to access detailed nutritional information.
This second step is not that big of a leap, because most smartphones are already capable of reading QR codes. The smartphone can look up the table, and this can help to create a menu which is a ‘best’ fit for the person’s nutritional requirements.
With these in place, individuals and families can improve health through better meal choices. And it may help to reduce the overall disease rate, by helping individuals avoid foods that could lead to conditions like diabetes and heart disease.