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Sunday, 4 July 2021

Not sure what to have for dinner? You could consider a DNA swab.

Why your next meal plan should be designed around your own DNA: If you’ve tried a diet with a friend and the results turned out differently for both of you (like you ended up gaining three kilos while they lost the same amount *coughs*) — then you’ve already experienced the need for an eating plan that’s tailored to your own needs.

Enter personalized nutrition: The name gives this so-called concept away. Simply put, personalized nutrition is the idea that nutritional advice should suit every individual’s different body type, age, metabolism, and other factors that cause us to react to food and drink differently. Individualising nutritional advice has long been an offered service locally and abroad, but new advances in technology and science can elevate personalised nutrition to new heights.

A whole new industry has also been built around this approach, and it’s expected to reach a whopping value north of USD 70 bn globally by 2025, reports Nutrition Australia.

It has already come a long way. Today, many companies use DNA tests to give clients advice on which diets and foods best suit certain inborn traits. This area has come to be known as the science of nutrigenomics, which studies the relationship between our genes, what we eat, and our health. Our individual genetic makeup means that the way in which we metabolise nutrients, the interactions of enzymes and the biochemical reactions that occur in our bodies differ from person to person, with each needing different food intake.

The MEA region seems on board: Many research reports and academic articles (see: here, and here) suggest that the personalized nutrition market is booming across the Middle East and Africa, and it’s popularity seems to be motivated by a number of reasons.

First, lifestyle habits have shifted in younger generations, who are more health-conscious than their predecessors. Second, average incomes in developing countries have, generally, been on an upward trend, and studies often find a positive correlation between socioeconomic status and healthier lifestyles and exercise. A higher disposable income, plus more exercise and an increase in the region’s elderly population, has buoyed the demand for dietary supplements, whether to control weight or boost protein intake, and in turn made those items more commercially available. Food manufacturers have banked on these trends, creating a wide range of products for different health purposes.

Some personalised nutrition services right here in Egypt:

  • UK-based DNAFit recently set up shop, and is offering genetic testing to recommend a diet and training regimen.
  • MyNutriGene uses nutrigenomics to provide a genomic assessment of individuals’ nutritional profile based on DNA analysis and interpretation. The assessment gives you information about your metabolism and tells you your body’s likely response to macronutrients, vitamin profile, and food intolerances.
  • For Alexandria folks, Alex Nutrigenomix is available at Dar El Fohous Laboratories, and also provides dietary recommendations based on gene testing.

Elsewhere, much work is being done to boost our knowledge personalised nutrition: Examples include Singaporean startup Anrich3D, which is working on a project to enable 3D food printing, and Dutch firm Verdify, which created a platform that allows firms to tailor recipes for consumers by using an AI algorithm.

One caveat, though — the ethics of the industry are (at best) shaky: Ethical concerns revolve around privacy, and is making some individuals reluctant to share their data or fully adopt wearable technology that can track and store important information such as locations and heart rates.

Cue a dietary utopia: In a feature for their popular ‘What If?’ series, the Economist (paywall) explores a scenario where, by 2035, everyone’s diet is customized. Under such a hypothetical scenario, rich, able countries would see a significant fall in obesity and diabetes rates and plans would already be underway for a “planetary health diet” that will cut 50% of red meat and sugar consumption in favor of nuts, fruits, legumes, and vegetables.

Unfortunately, emerging countries would still be lagging behind in this fictitious world, and the business and political elites of the developed world would flock to a 2035 edition of the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss ways of how to make healthy food cheaper.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

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