Opening up our eyes to the perks of personalised diets

Personalised diets can influence several key aspects of health, including lowering your weight, cholesterol and heart disease risk, as well as improving your mood, metabolism ­and gut health. And this is kind of what you’d expect.

But does it mean that general ­government advice is wrong?

Not exactly, but improvements for people following personalised ­guidance were greater in some areas than for those following current government guidelines.

Trouble is, people often don’t follow generalised health advice.

Numerous chronic diseases can be linked back to our diets, including stroke risk, heart disease and some cancers. New research suggests changing our diet can make us healthier and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

There’s also wide variation in how people’s bodies respond to food, even between identical twins.

Despite this, little research has been done into the effectiveness of ­personalised dietary approaches.

So would a personalised diet plan, tailored to an individual’s biology, lifestyle and health history, have a greater impact than generic nutrition advice such as avoiding red meat?

For the research, personalised diet programmes were created by ZOE, a science and ­nutrition company co-founded by King’s College London professor Tim Spector – for whom I have a lot of time – which aims to help people improve their health with personalised advice.

Some 347 Americans took part in the study, with researchers comparing the effects of following an 18-week personalised programme to generic US government-issued nutrition advice.

While both groups improved their health overall, people on a personalised diet plan lost more weight than the control group and lowered their triglyceride (fat) levels more – decreasing their risk of heart disease.

Participants following personalised diet plans were also twice as likely to report improved mood, twice as likely to feel less hungry and over four times more likely to report better sleep quality and energy levels compared with the control group.

“It is clear some current population advice isn’t working as well as it could, with many people struggling to stick to it. ZOE advice shows that thinking about foods in a totally different way with the emphasis on quality, personalisation and gut health can have massive ­benefits if adopted more widely,” says Prof Spector, from King’s School of Life Course and Population Sciences.

“Personalised approaches can improve both how well people follow advice, as well as the efficacy of the advice. Targeting multiple features of personalisation is key to success, including people’s biology, lifestyles, barriers and preferences,” says Dr Sarah Berry, Department of Nutritional Sciences and Chief Scientist of ZOE.

The concept of personalised ­nutrition is fascinating and I’ll be following it up.