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  1. Hoolihan, Lori PhD, RD


There is a considerable and growing body of research supporting the conviction that specific foods and/or nutrients convey positive health benefits for specific conditions and among certain segments of the population. This supports a move beyond population-based dietary guidelines, to more individualized or personalized recommendations and food choices.1 The International Food and Information Council offers the following description of "personalized nutrition": it involves the establishment of individual dietary recommendations based on knowledge of nutritional requirements, nutritional status, and each person's unique genetic makeup to potentially reduce risk of disease.2 Consumers are largely the drivers of this movement as they increasingly seek customized diets to fit their specific lifestyles, preferences, and disease risks.3


At the same time, the increased prevalence of adult and childhood obesity with their associated health consequences has received a great deal of academic and media attention. Much debate in healthcare, government, and consumer circles has centered on identifying a "culprit" for this alarming trend. Many solutions center on population-based social marketing strategies and policy, legislative and regulatory interventions designed to create healthy eating and activity environments. Also critically important, but often left out of these discussions, are the roles of education-based behavior change and personal responsibility.


By leveraging the recent individualization or personalized nutrition movement with proven behavioral interventions, nutritional science professionals have an opportunity. They can create meaningful and effective strategies to ameliorate overweight in those who already have a problem and help prevent it in those at risk. Developing and utilizing an individualized education approach that complements environmental strategies could be a powerful weapon against obesity. Key leaders in health and nutrition discussed and developed strategies to advance this individualized education approach in the prevention and treatment of obesity at a recent conference, and this article presents their major findings.