Have you ever been on a diet? Ever bounced from Atkins diet to Ketogenic diet to Paleo diet and many other combos, only to see yourself right back to where you started? If you knew that you were going to develop diabetes or cancer in a few years from now, what food could you take to preventive it? How would you identify specific dietary recommendations based on your particular health status and goals? Want to live longer and healthier but confused about the right kind of food to take?
The answer lies in the fact that the food we take affects us on an individual level. Our bodies are unique and have distinctive nutritional needs. Isn’t it fascinating to know that the solution to many of our health issues could be right on your dining table?
The food and plants around us are made of molecules- not hundreds or thousands, but trillions of molecules with innumerable data. And these data can transform human health with personalized nutrition. We all have our diverse nutritional and caloric needs, so no meal is one-size-fits-all. It is now known that the food we eat is a modifiable lifestyle factor. Researchers have identified that changing our eating habits is strongly recommended to prevent and manage diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease etc.
Let food be thy medicine!
Over the years, our understanding of food and nutrition has continued to grow. Personalized nutrition takes into account the individual’s variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle. It suggests the recent development of the large-scale biologic database, robust methods for characterizing patients, and the use of high and smart technology. Recent scientific researches have brought about a fundamental change in the molecular understanding of plants and the way we understand their nutritional potentials.
Emerging technologies, such as AI and machine learning, are helping us see and understand the full potential of plants to improve health and wellness outcomes. Mapping the extensive world of phytonutrients and improving nutrition policy and research is the main focus of personalized nutrition guidance.
AI is gaining more and more attention recently because it can learn and create model linear and nonlinear relationships between different factors affecting us. This is done by creating an input-output mapping so that confidential and precious information is disclosed. This can be interpreted for personalized decision-making.
Eran Segal and team at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel found that AI could accurately predict a short-term personalized dietary intervention. Using machine learning, they analyzed billions of data points to figure out what caused the glucose response to certain foods for each individual. Using this method, they successfully lowered the post-meal glucose in 800 patients by developing an algorithm using personal and microbiome information.
AI identifies “dark matter of nutrition."
Brightseed, a San Francisco startup, uses an AI-based technology to find nutrients which are important for promoting health by identifying new molecular connections between specific phytonutrients. Using the AI platform, they index small molecules produced by plants called phytonutrients. Recently Danone North America, the world’s largest certified B-corporation, has partnered with Brightseed to identify the unknown health benefits of soy.
Takoua Debeche, SVP Research & Innovation at Danone North America says “As a leader in plant-based food and beverages, Danone North America values external partnerships that can help us improve and optimize the taste, texture and nutritional aspects of our products, and contribute to our biodiversity vision.” There is a lot of research about the use of AI in identifying phytonutrients as they are considered the “dark matter of nutrition”. Only less than 1% of these molecules have been identified and catalogued to date.
Companies are working in this space.
Nestlé and Nuritas partnered on developing a bioactive peptide which uses Artificial Intelligence and DNA analysis to predict, unlock and validate highly efficacious peptides, exclusively from a natural food source.
Brightseed Biosciences has teamed with Danone North America to profile health benefits in soy. They have created a powerful AI technique called Forager™, which uses advanced metabolomics instrumentation involving phytonutrients that predict their effect on human health.
IBM has planned a “5 in 5” program with five innovations that will change the way live in the next five years. AI-based blockchain to prevent food spoilage, virtual farming models to upgrade the way agricultural data is used, mapping the microbiome to prevent infections and computer vision from monitoring the quality of food that we consume are among the innovations.
Horizon 2020 grant by Nuritas has unlocked US$3.52 million to advance one of its discoveries in the area of prediabetes. “That’s in human clinical trials at the moment, and the endpoint for that is an article 13.5 health claim submission, which is going to be a first-of-its-kind ingredient,” Neil Foster, Head of Strategic Partnerships from Nuritas comments. He adds "We are a disruptive startup using AI. We are highly active in Asia, the US and Europe," he says. It is claimed that Nuritas already have the biggest database of patented peptides, with the next most significant player being Novartis.
Healthify me, Neutrino, FitGenie, Calorie Mama, Bite AI are some of the AI-powered nutrition apps that use deep learning and image recognition to analyze what the users eat, answer queries around fitness and nutrition and produce customized data regarding calorie intake and make food suggestions. What’s more, some of these apps even identify the food correctly and also estimates the amount the calories just from the picture.
5 years from now…
The Spanish pandemic flu of 1918 caused the modern medicine industry to evolve. Similarly, the Covid-19 pandemic can become a similar tipping point in terms of nutrition, enhancing the understanding of how plants are connected to human health. Personalized nutrition is changing the industrial economy to a lifestyle economy where human satisfaction and fitness is the primary focus.
The computational tools for analyzing large data sets and, in this way, health-care providers will depend on electronic clinical decision support to quickly make appropriate treatment decisions. AI will become a daily essential in selecting the right nutrition for fitness and well-being and nutritional meal planning/dietary menu planning.
The need of the hour is to harness the power and accessibility of AI for precision nutrition in terms of AI-based diet and supplements, genetic tests for individualized nutrition and fitness, nutritional meal planning for cancer, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, type-2 diabetes patients and AI-based nutrition and fitness support systems and apps.