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X Fact
September 1, 2020
2 Minute Read
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Is There a Difference Between "Personalized" and "Precision" Nutrition?

For foods to be used by people, the components of foods must be metabolized. There are thousands of pathways in metabolism that convert food component into energy or into structures within cells and organs. People can vary greatly in how efficient they are at moving food components through any one of these metabolic pathways. This metabolic heterogeneity can result in differences between people (or animals) in how they respond to nutrients or bioactive molecules.

If we could understand the sources of this nutrition-relevant metabolic heterogeneity, we could predict these variations, use this information to develop better estimates of that individual’s dietary requirements, and develop better dietary recommendations and interventions. This is the basis for a new discipline called ‘precision nutrition’, sometimes called ‘personalized nutrition’. We now can identify groups of people that can be targeted in terms of nutrition recommendations because they share some similar metabolic inefficiencies. However, it will be some time before we can identify all the metabolic inefficiencies that exist in a single person and use this information to give truly personal diet recommendations; thus, the choice of “precision” rather than “personalized” nutrition to designate this new field.

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Who Wrote This X Fact
Steven H. Zeisel MD PhD
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Dr. Zeisel is the Kenan Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Nutrition in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Zeisel earned his MD from Harvard Medical School in 1975, was a resident in pediatrics at Yale University from 1975–1977 and earned his PhD in nutrition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1980. Dr. Zeisel is the Director of the UNC Nutrition Research Institute and Director of the UNC Nutrition and Obesity Research Center (one of 12 centers of excellence funded by the US NIH), North Carolina. Dr. Zeisel and his research team focus on the essential nutrient choline which is especially important during pregnancy and lactation, as choline is critical for brain and eye development. Dr. Zeisel has authored more than 380 scientific publications.


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