The future of nutrition advice

The precision nutrition approach looks at an individual's unique set of nutritional requirements.

(CNN)Most of us know we should eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

So why would the National Institutes of Health spend $150 million to answer questions such as "What and when should we eat?" and "How can we improve the use of food as medicine?"
The answer may be precision nutrition, which aims to understand the health effects of the complex interplay among genetics, our microbiome (the bacteria living in our gut), our diet and level of physical activity, and other social and behavioral characteristics.
    That means that everyone could have their own unique set of nutritional requirements.
      How is that possible? I asked three experts who conduct precision nutrition research: Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology and chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Martha Field and Angela Poole, both assistant professors in the division of nutritional sciences at Cornell University's College of Human Ecology.
      Below is an edited version of our conversation.
      CNN: How is precision nutrition different from current nutrition advice?
        Dr. Frank Hu
        Dr. Frank Hu: The idea of precision nutrition is to have the right food, at the right amount, for the right person. Instead of providing general dietary recommendations for everyone, this precision approach tailors nutrition recommendations to individual characteristics, including one's genetic background, microbiome, social and environmental factors, and more. This can help achieve better health outcomes.
        CNN: Why is there no one-size-fits-all prescription when it comes to what we should be eating?
        Hu: Not everyone responds to the same diet in the same way. For example, given the same weight-loss diet, some people can lose a lot of weight; other people may gain weight. A recent study in JAMA randomized a few hundred overweight individuals to a healthy low-carb or low-fat diet. After one year, there was almost an identical amount of weight loss for the two groups, but there was a huge variation between individuals within each group -- some lost 20 pounds. Others gained 10 pounds.