As genomics technologies continue to evolve, the need for interpreting consumers’ genetics is increasing. Thus, the role of consumers' genetics in the nutraceutical industry could quickly become more prominent.
As consumers are learning more about the need for a personalised nutrition approach to achieve optimal health, Rachel Clarkson, specialist dietitian at The DNA Dietitian, joined me to share her passion and knowledge about the nutrigenomics market.
Tune in to hear more about:
- How personalised nutrition is important for ensuring each person is living at their optimal health
- Consumers' perspective on wants and needs – what are they looking to achieve by taking a personalised nutrition approach
- How market demand around personalised nutrition market demand has increased in the past years, months and through COVID-19
- Most common reasons that lead consumers to consider personalised nutrition
- Things industry players active in the personalised nutrition space should consider when introducing new products and solutions to the market
- Technologies that are helpful in fast-tracking personalised nutrition recommendations and whitespace to be addressed by the industry
- Insights on how Rachel uses her expertise to support tech companies and practitioners in the space of personalised nutrition
Vitafoods Insights: 0:05 Welcome to the Vitafoods insights podcast. Join us as we explore the latest science innovation, helping the global health and nutrition industry connect, develop and progress. Today's host is Natalia Franca Rocha, content producer.
Natalia: 0:24 Hello, and welcome back to another Vitafoods insights podcast. I'm Natalia Franca Rocha and today I'll be exploring the topic of personalised nutrition with Rachel Clarkson. Rachel is a Board Certified specialist dietitian in the science of nutrigenomics- best known as the DNA dietitian. She currently sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of a number of health apps and guest lectures on the nutrition and genetic MSc at St. Mary's University in London. Thanks for joining me, Rachel, we are really excited to have you on the show today.
Rachel: 0:53 Thanks so much for having me, Natalia.
Natalia: 0:56 As we explore the topic of personalised nutrition, can you share with our listeners why is personalised nutrition so important for ensuring each person is living at their optimal health?
Rachel: 1:07 Absolutely, I mean, personalised nutrition can mean many different things to many different people. But I think if we're thinking of the advances in the field, at the moment, we're thinking about personalised nutrition as recommending dietary interventions or diets, let's say, based upon someone's true need. Now that need could be anything from preferences to their current health goals, and also thinking about their clinical history or our current medical state. And then we're thinking about those omex that can understand people at even deeper level than that. So thinking about what the genetic variations are, which can actually alter the way that they respond to these nutrients. So it's important so that each individual can really understand what they need from a dietary perspective, that's deeper than their personal preferences, or the fact that they just want to say, lose weight for aesthetic reasons, it's so much deeper. So we're thinking about things from a health point of view, at the same time as also honouring goals that are aesthetic, which many people also really kind of lean towards.
Natalia: 2:24 I think personalised nutrition grasps well with the whole concept of nature versus nurture. And thus, consumers are becoming more educated about their specific health needs, not just about their personal preferences, as you mentioned. That should certainly incentivize the industry to bring more products and services available to the market, right? So sharing the perspective of consumers themselves, what can you tell our listeners working within the nutraceutical industry? I mean, what are consumers looking to achieve by taking more of a personalised nutrition approach?
Rachel: 2:57 I think that what consumers want is trusted company, someone that they can look to, to help fill in the gaps of their current diet, say that they're, I don't know, very busy, whether they're a working mom or high performer, or they don't like to cook, say that they're not getting the variety that they need in the food that they consume. They're maybe looking for a company who can actually support filling in those gaps, but not just filling in the gaps around what the company thinks they need, like, what do they truly need? What are their genuine requirements that alter the personalization aspect? So I think that we have to look beyond just general health question as what understanding what a consumer needs, you know. It's all well and good asking, you know, what someone's energy is like, and whether they eat x, y, and z. But if we're looking at a deeper level, again, when we're trying to investigate what someone truly needs at a personalised level, it means that we're really probably looking more around biomarkers, whether their current levels at the moment, genetic variations, what are they genetically predisposed to when it comes to metabolising certain nutrients. I think that's something that people are now craving for because at the moment, people are just confused, going into health food stores or browsing the internet, trying to understand what supplements they need, what dose they need. I think that's a big one, you know, what dose am I supposed to be taking? Because too much of anything can be very harmful. And so I think companies need to be aware of that, that it's not just about educating people what they need, but also how much they need as well and thinking about safety.
Natalia: 4:54 That's so interesting to hear about this deeper personalised needs for consumers and education that you mentioned, and how is the market for a personalised nutrition changed through COVID? Have you seen a notable increase in demand for personalised nutrition solutions? Let's say within the past months or years?
Rachel: 5:13 I would say that there has definitely been a rise in the interest of seeking out dietary interventions or even, you know, not to be as sciency as that, but just a diet that people can follow that's personalised to them that will actually lead to positive health outcomes. I think COVID was a big scare for a lot of people with being overweight and having comorbidities being a serious risk factor for severity of disease and outcome. I think, yeah, there's been a lot more people who are interested in gaining further insight into how they can achieve better health. And just on that note, I would just point out that people at the moment trying to lose weight, or they have been for years haven't they? been struggling how to lose weight, just with, you know, fad diets and just playing the guesswork. I think that personalised nutrition is a way of answering their questions. Really, what does their body need to be able to respond best to fat loss? What does their body need to be able to reduce their risk of cardio metabolic disease?What does their body need to? And when I say need, what food do they need to be consuming to prevent nutritional deficiencies that we know really cause future disease and current issues with well being and health? So it's very, very important. And I think the rise in education around nutrition, over the recent years, I would say, has definitely helped people understand the field a little bit more. That's not to say they know a lot about personalised nutrition. Many people just come across it in maybe an article, or maybe their friend or relative has spoken about it. It's still not as mainstream as it should be because this really is the answer to everybody's health and dietary issues or, yes, work. So yeah, I love it. It's really taken things to the next level for so many of my patients. And there's a really fulfilling part of that, where you can use technology, as well as your clinical experience and knowledge to help someone achieve better health, especially during this time of COVID.
Natalia: 7:39 Yeah, I can certainly hear your excitement and love for the topic. And, of course, it's not surprising to hear how COVID has, in fact accelerated this evolvement of so many areas within the nutraceutical industry, especially the weight management and as well, you were mentioning before personalised nutrition is a new concept for a lot of consumers. So what would you say are the most common reasons that actually lead consumers to consider personalised nutrition?
Rachel: 8:08 I just mentioned, the guesswork that people are constantly trying to overcome. And it's frustrating, you know, trying something new out after, you know, the last diet didn't work. And then this one failing, and then maybe they get a little bit further ahead. But then this one plateaus. And, you know, people are just frustrated. And it's not just taking a hit at their self confidence, but it's just generally just not a nice feeling. And people feel like they're feeling but they're not feeling, they just don't know what their body needs. You know, just because one diet worked for their friend or their relative doesn't mean that it will work for them because there are genetic variations that alter the way that they metabolise and respond to these nutrients. So, I think that was probably the main reason that people are seeking out personalised dietary advice, based upon a trusted technology. So that's probably why people are coming to the space. And I think if I was to bring something else up, I would say that most people come to me for that. But also they come to me because they've had a really poor experience with a personalised nutrition company. So they've had testing, they've had dietary advice, and it's just not been to a standard that they expected when it comes to personalization, or they didn't understand the report, or say they had a consultation. It just wasn't meeting their goals. So I think when anyone is thinking about putting together a great offering for the consumer, they have to remember customer experience. And they have to put that at the forefront. And when I say that, you really have to think about patient centred care, because that's what it is right? Even though it's a consumer, it is a patient because you kind of moving into the health space, or some might argue, they don't get into the health space, because they are just treating healthy people. But let's be honest, even though there is probably that waiver in place that you know, you are just treating healthy people, there will be people that are being managed, maybe medically, but yeah, it's a fine line. And I think safety is paramount here, and that's why I'm so passionate about these companies employing really trusted and knowledgeable individuals in the space of genetics and nutrition, with both skills in kind of both areas, rather than just a nutritionist and just the geneticists, and then just hoping to put them into a team together. That's not gonna work. You know, you need someone who has skills and qualifications in both nutrition and genetics. So it's something that I've seen to be a real down pitfall. And in quite a few companies.
Natalia: 11:26 You touched on some really interesting points, I think we all can relate; we all must know somebody who tried to follow a diet for a specific thing, but it didn't really work but work for their friends. So yeah, I agree that can be really frustrating for a lot of people. And I suppose also, as genomics technologies continue to evolve, the space for personalised nutrition will become even better for attending consumers' need. You also touched on the companies trying to bring products to the market. So I like to shift the focus to the industry players active in this space of personalised nutrition and ask you what are some of the things they should consider when introducing new personalised nutrition products and solutions to the market? I mean, of course, you mentioned the human centric approach to put consumers in the centre, but what other things should they be considering?
Rachel: 12:21 I think it's a really exciting field, because everybody wants to be ordering their shopping online or walking into a store and kind of choosing a product based on what their needs are. So I think that coming from a space where I educate people around what their needs are, I think it would be nice to put products together that are higher in X, Y, and Z or lower in X, Y, and Z so that the consumer themselves can make that informed choice over that's the product that I want to choose based on their goals. And I think you can also consider integrating with these testing companies, who will also be able to direct the consumer to your product, depending on their true needs. So I think that's a really exciting integration of different technologies. When it comes to personalised products, you can also look to just feel one niche, rather than having a range of different products for different people, and really pushing for that.
Natalia: 13:40 That's so interesting to hear how this products can be integrated with one another. And I'm sure our listeners would also be interested to hear about what technology is helpful to fast track personalised nutrition recommendations as well. And if there are any whitespaces, they need to be addressed by the industry?
Rachel: 13:58 Yes, I mean, integration of technologies is the number one key, I think, to taking things to the next level. And would I say that right now, the integration of the omix need to be integrated? I'm not sure. And when I say omix, I mean, so like microbiome testing and genetic testing, and all of these different testings to together like the sciences aren't there yet for the other areas. So I think in say, 10 years, we will absolutely have integration of the different omix testing in order to personalise people's recommendations. But right now, I think the space for growth will be the integration of the food product companies, whether that be delivery, whether that be just product based actually integrated with the testing companies. So is that partnership that won't just elevate both parties, but will actually elevate the customers experience. Because how great is it to see on your dashboard that you need more of this? And with a click of a button, you can be taken to a whole range of products or meals that are perfect for you. I think that's what's missing in the space.
Natalia: 15:21 It's certainly exciting. For me personally, I can't wait to see how personalised nutrition and the microbiome sector will integrate more in the future. And I was also interested to know how do you personally use your expertise to support tech companies and practitioners in the space?
Rachel: 15:41 Yes, well, my passion for helping other practitioners and the technology companies out there really came from a place of frustration, when hearing from my patients that they had just had a really bad experience in this field, which I kind of mentioned and touched on before. And I just thought there's room here to educate people around safe practice, that will lead to positive outcomes for the practitioner or the technology company, and also what we all really care about, the consumer. So I put together a programme, it's a quite extensive course, for individuals who are already trained, and quite knowledgeable in the area of nutrition. So registered dietitians, registered nutritionists who would like to upskill in the area of personalised nutrition, especially nutrigenomics. And these can be people who are working in private practice, or they can be employees of tech companies themselves. And so they can really understand at a very molecular level, how this science can help elevate the company, whether it be just themselves in their practice, or actually taking the skills to the company that they're working with. So it's a really, I say intensive, it's just a very, very educational engaging process that I take someone through. It's all online. And it really is, all of my knowledge from the years that I've been spending in the area, and also teaching and guest lecturing at the university, in nutrition and genetics, it's kind of all of that, and can help people achieve a better understanding and therefore a better offering to the consumer.
Natalia: 17:55 What a nice way to wrap things up and hear more about your work with the nutrigenomics sector, and how you're combining the sectors of nutrition and genetics as well to continue to share your knowledge. Well, thank you, Rachel, for coming on the show and sharing your insights with our listeners.
Rachel: 18:09 Thank you so much for having me. I mean, if anyone wants any more information about following me just in general, or about the practitioner training, you can find me at the DNA dietitian on Instagram or my website, thednadietitian.co.uk.
Natalia: 18:28 Thanks also to our listeners for tuning in on this great discussion about personalised nutrition with Rachael. For more content on the nutraceutical industry, check out our website on the link available in the show notes. And if you like the show, make sure to subscribe and follow the Vitafoods insights podcast. That's all for now. Until next time, and thank you for listening.