Precision Nutrition: The Next Frontier in Health and Performance
Over the past six months at the Sports Innovation Lab, we've been tracking companies that are developing novel approaches to highly individualized nutrition. These companies fit into a trend we like to call Precision Nutrition.
What is Precision Nutrition?
Precision Nutrition is the practice of tailoring what an individual eats and drinks based on their genes, environment and lifestyle.
- In practice, Precision Nutrition is a closed-loop approach that includes physiological monitoring and personalized nutrient delivery. Like Precision Medicine, Precision Nutrition abandons a traditional one-size-fits-all solution in favor of a customized one that accounts for individual differences.
- The goal of Precision Nutrition is delivery of the exact nutrients (i.e., food, drinks, supplements, etc.) a person needs, when they need it, so that they can perform better, recover faster, and live healthier.
What variables are important?
Precision Nutrition takes a variety of biological and environmental factors into consideration. This includes variables like:
- Genomics and epigenetics
- Gut microbiome
- Food sensitivity
- Energy expenditure (EE)
- Sweat loss and composition
And, in the not-too-distant future might also account for things like:
- Body temperature
- Muscle activity (EMG)
- Heart activity (ECG)
- Brain activity (EEG)
How is tech used?
Breakthroughs in DNA testing, wearables and microfluidics have accelerated Precision Nutrition efforts dramatically.
Here’s an example of what Precision Nutrition looks like in practice:
- You start by taking a DNA test. Once you get the results back, you know what nutrients your body responds best, and worst, to.
- Next, you begin wearing a device that monitors your activity so you can keep track of how many calories you burn throughout the day.
- Before you exercise, you take a probiotic supplement that increases endurance and staves off fatigue.
- While exercising, you wear a hydration sensor - one that quantifies how much you sweat as well as the composition of that sweat.
- Taking into account the foods your body likes best, the calories you burned and the fluids you lost, you can give your body exactly what it needs.
- Better yet, a company tracks your data and sends you customized meals, replacement shakes and / or supplements.
Where is it now?
Today, we aren’t far from realizing the goal of Precision Nutrition:
- Companies like 23andMe, Orig3n and Athletigen are already producing cost-effective, direct-to-consumer DNA tests.
- Next generation biomarker trackers (e.g., hydration monitoring) are being hardened in labs and proven in small pilot studies.
And, there’s been increased partnership and investment activity in the space:
- Last year, Samsung announced a partnership with Nestlé only a few months before Campbell Soup invested in Habit.
- This summer, Lose It! announced a partnership with Helix.
- This month, 23andMe closed a $250 million round led by Sequoia Capital.
- Elite athletes will be the early-adopters of Precision Nutrition. The physical demands they place on their bodies make them prime candidates for more targeted nutrition strategies.
- As the tech improves and becomes more affordable, Precision Nutrition will significantly impact the health of the general population—it has the potential to serve as a form of treatment for some chronic illnesses (e.g., diabetes).
- In the near future, food & beverage and dietary supplement companies will utilize Precision Nutrition to sell personalized, premium products.
- Winners in the space will simplify the process for consumers by partnering with savvy tech companies to create an end-to-end experience (i.e., test, monitor, deliver, repeat). Major resources are already being deployed globally to secure key investments and establish strategic partnerships on this front.
- Elite athletes have the clearest, near-term need, so companies should focus their energy on these early-adopters before pursuing a consumer market strategy.
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