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Authors

  1. Hoolihan, Lori E. PhD, RD

Abstract

During the past several years, the focus of nutritional sciences has shifted from deficiency disease prevention to optimizing health and chronic disease prevention. Research accordingly has encompassed the health effects of bioactive food components, "functional foods," patterns of food consumption, and the interactions of food components with each other (food synergy). This research, along with the expectations of the increasingly health-conscious consumer, is leading to more highly tailored food choices and nutrition recommendations to meet individuals' specific needs. The challenge for nutrition and health professionals in the near future will be to fine-tune recommendations and guide consumers with actionable messages tailored to their specific needs.

 

The rapid development of information technology in the past quarter of a century has changed much in America-the way we educate our children, conduct business and research, and even the ways we live and manage our lives. Advances in technology have greatly improved efficiency, accuracy, and quality of life for the consumer. We are becoming a highly individualized society and expect to find and acquire what we want when we want it, including information on any topic imaginable, connections to family and friends through cellular phones and e-mail, tailored clothes, and home-delivered groceries.

 

Likewise, food choices and nutrition recommendations are becoming more highly tailored and individualized to meet consumers' specific needs. This new paradigm and way of viewing foods and their components will ultimately shift broad population-based nutrient recommendations to ones more tailored to the individual. There is more to nutrition than classical deficiencies and avoiding chronic disease risk, including bioactive food components and "functional foods" that may have positive effects on health. Patterns of food consumption and food synergy, or the positive interactions between food components, are increasingly being recognized as playing a critical role in health.

 

This new paradigm (Table 1) has the potential to significantly improve our ability to optimize health and prevent disease. However, the unfolding of this movement also presents certain challenges to the health professional. No longer will consumers be satisfied with population-based nutrition recommendations and guidelines. They will increasingly seek and demand information and advice specific to their unique needs, goals, and lifestyles. The challenge for nutrition and health professionals will be to fine-tune recommendations and guide consumers with actionable messages tailored to their specific needs.