Why one-size-fits-all diets don't always work

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  • General dietary guidelines may not have the best outcomes across populations
  • A recent study shows that personalised diets are more successful
  • This is because these diets are tailored to suit individual needs

Researchers at Deakin University (School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences) conducted a systematic review to evaluate how effective personalised nutrition (PN) interventions are. The review was published in the journal Advances in Nutrition, and used information from three databases (EMBASE, PubMed and CINAHL).

What is personalised nutrition?

According to Malaysian researcher, Yazan Ranneh, “Personalised nutrition uses information on individual characteristics to develop targeted nutritional advice, products, or services to assist people to achieve a lasting dietary change in behaviour that is beneficial for health.”

He goes on to say that this can be based on a range of different factors, such as how an individual responds to different foods, their preferences and/or their current behaviours. 

General dietary guidelines

On the other hand, generalised dietary advice refers to general guidelines for eating well, such as eating enough vegetables, drinking enough water, limiting salt and processed foods intake and eating healthy fats. 

Generalised dietary advice does not focus on an individual’s dietary needs or preferences, but instead gives an idea of dietary practices that should be universally beneficial. 

‘Tailored advice based on diet, phenotype, or genetic information’

For the purpose of the review, the researchers analysed 11 studies meeting the criteria, and extracted information on “intervention design and changes in nutrients, foods, and dietary patterns”.  The studies included the outcomes of between 57 and 1 488 participants with a follow-up duration of between one and 12 months. 

“Overall, the available evidence suggests that dietary intake is improved to a greater extent in participants randomly assigned to receive PN advice compared with generalised dietary advice”, the researchers concluded. 

How is tailored nutritional support beneficial? 

Personalised (or tailored) nutritional advice is based on an individual’s personal needs, and therefore has better outcomes, such as a greater chance of an individual permanently adopting the dietary changes, and poses greater health benefits on a scientific basis. 

Often people who have issues with their health require dietary changes, and the results of the review indicate that in such instances it is best to seek the assistance of a professional (i.e. a nutritionist) to assess their individual dietary needs. 

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