Low carb. Low fat. Paleo. Whole30. Mediterranean. Keto. These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the different diet plans you can follow. And naturally, everyone's got an opinion on what's the best. Well, we're going to shatter everything you know (or think you know) about dieting: It doesn't matter what nutritionists and scientists say. It all depends on you, according to research from Newcastle University. Turns out, the "optimal" diet plan is called personalized nutrition.
The success of your diet relies entirely upon your body, mind, and attitude. But that's not to say you don't need help. In fact, the main takeaway from this new body of research is that people who receive personalized nutrition advice and support develop healthier eating habits—like eating less red meat and salt—and are more motivated to make necesarry changes. The researchers also found using a website (available to you, too!) is effective at influencing important lifestyle changes.
In the study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, 1,607 adults from seven European countries were randomly assigned to four different groups.
One group was given conventional healthy eating advice, such as "eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily" or "eat two portions of fish, one of which is oily fish, per week;" a second group received an individualized approach with advice and support based on an analysis of their current diet; a third group received personalized nutrition dependent on their body fat percentage and blood markers; and a fourth group followed a nutrition plan based on their diet and genes (five genes with the strongest diet-gene relationship and opportunity to manipulate with diet were examined). Then, to help participants hone in on the aspects of their diets that needed the most help (or most change), each participant was given three personalized food-based goals. For example, you might be encouraged to choose whole grain varieties of bread and cereals to increase dietary fiber; or, you might be prompted to reduce or avoid certain high-fat dairy products to lower your intake of saturated fats.
Lastly, the three personalized nutrition groups joined the website Food4Me, an intervention study and forum where experts survey the current knowledge of personalized nutrition and provide advice to volunteers (people looking to lose weight) to explore the application of individualized nutrition. The study subjects reported their dietary intake, eating patterns, and other relevant information for professionals to create optimized advice—all via the web.
At the end of six months, 80 percent of the participants successfully completed the study and their diets, eating less red meat and more fruits and vegetables. Those randomized to the personalized nutrition treatment groups had significantly better and bigger improvements in their eating patterns; they experienced double the improvement when it came to the overall healthiness of their diets measured using the Healthy Eating Index compared to those in the control group.
What's more, the researchers found no evidence that personalization based on more complex information (like DNA and blood markers) made any difference to the outcome.
"What is exciting about this study is that we now know the Internet can be used to deliver personali[z]ed nutrition advice to large numbers of people," leady study author John Mathers said in a press release. "People find this approach convenient and it is better at improving people's diets than the conventional 'one size fits all' approach. We would expect this to translate, eventually, to bigger improvements in health and wellbeing," he adds.
Now, we're not saying you have to join a research team or become a weight loss guinea pig. You can implement personalized nutrition on your own. Follow the tips from nutritionist Kristen Carlucci, RD, below.