Column #385    January 13, 2023Precision Nutrition

I wonder how many people, those who actually follow nutritional science, think they can select foods that will precisely provide their nutritional requirements? Many nutrition adherents read food ingredient labels. Most of them avoid highly processed foods and have taboos regarding sugar, hydrogenated oils, salt, fat, various vegetables oils, and on and on goes the forbidden list. In the whole food aisles they seek out mostly raw meat, vegetables, and fruit.

Just to make sure they aren’t leaving out some potentially required nutrients, many of these careful shoppers also take supplements. Their objective is to make sure they aren’t missing something. This then begs the question, “Can you supplement your meticulous food selections and have precise nutrition?”

Unfortunately it’s an impossible task! That’s because you can’t determine your optimal diet and what possible supplements you may require based on articles, advertisements, and your perceived symptoms. In most cases, to find out if your body has surpluses, deficiencies, or conflicting quantities of nutrients in it, what’s required is a very comprehensive blood sample analysis in addition to tests for your specific responses to various foods. Then one needs a professional who knows how to interpret your health status and has extensive knowledge about the proper balance of nutrients your body requires.1

Without a professional approach, there’s no telling how you’ll be conned. For instance, how does a fruit and vegetable supplement compare with a serving of the real thing. To provide some insight into that very question I turn to Consumer Labs to get the facts. Here’s its partial analysis of fruit and veggie supplements.

“Are supplements good substitutes for fresh fruits and vegetables? We found that ‘fruits’ and ‘veggies’ supplements were not substitutes for getting the recommended daily intakes of fruits and vegetables, despite marketing claims for some saying they are. At best, only one-fifth of the adult daily requirement might be met with a suggested daily serving of any of these products. Adults need about 500 grams of fresh fruits and veggies per day. If dried and made into powders, this would equal about 50 grams per day. Most supplements provide no more than 2 to 10 grams of powdered fruits and veggies per suggested daily serving; many don't even list the amounts; and some contain greater amounts of ingredients like tapioca syrup and sugar than fruits or vegetables. In fact, you can get more fruit (and fiber) from a single apple than from most fruit supplements, and at much lower cost.”2

Precision nutrition is used extensively in animal husbandry. For examples let’s refer to chickens and pigs where raising chickens and pigs is definitely a science. At any one time in the world there are roughly 25.9 billion chickens and about 785 million pigs. Therefore, we can literally say there are billions of examples for our analysis.

The chicken and pork meat industries are highly competitive within and without. Also, they are very diversified geographically. Yet there is not a scientifically concocted ration for either species that has proven to be “perfect.” That’s why there are nutritional variations of standard rations that are better under differing circumstances. Yet in spite of considerable nutritional scientific analysis, in all cases where chickens and pigs are raised in batches, even though the genetics of each species, age, and environmental conditions are basically the same, the results vary dramatically on the harvest day.

I’ve experienced it many times with batches of chickens and pigs. Even though birth dates are the same, a scientifically precise-nutrition ration is used, the feeding time is exactly the same for the various batches, and all batches are harvested on the same day the differences in individual weights is dramatic. For instance, with a group of pigs the average weight at harvest may be 245.7 pounds. The heaviest pig may weigh 292 pounds while the lightest one weighs 212 pounds.3

The bottom line is that as we strive for nutritional perfection, we must recognize that our bodies respond differently to the exact same inputs. Males respond differently than females. We may have a particular nutrient overload which negatively impacts the uptake of other nutrients. The biodiversity of our gut microbiota differs from person to person, even within the same family. Of course biodiversity even changes over time!

There’s also biodiversity that impacts all life on Earth. It refers to biological variety in all its forms, from the genetic make up of people, plants, and animals to cultural diversity. In addition there’s diversity in many environmental factors as well. Many of these differences are minimized when animals are raised in groups. But even then there are some differences in dietary performances that crop up.4 5

Getting the absolute optimized and precise diet for yourself is very difficult. Personally, I think the best dietary approach is ancestral based. What did man eat most over time before the invention of agricultural pursuits? But then don’t expect that to be absolute perfection for you. Your body is not the same as your relatives nor your neighbors. Consequently, your diet may need tweaking. But if you tweak it randomly based on articles, advertisements, and hearsay you may do more damage than if you do nothing but eat a carnivorous diet.6 7 8 9

The bottom line: if you don’t feel you are experiencing optimal health, you must take a scientific approach which requires tests, change, and time. Then rinse and repeat.

To your health.

Ted Slanker

Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.

For additional reading:

1. Cell Science Systems Corp.—a specialty clinical laboratory

2. Consumer Lab Analyzes Supplements

3. There Is No Such Thing as Precision Nutrition by Ioannis Mavromichalis, Ph.D from WATTAgNet

4. Biodiversity of Gut Microbiota: Impact of Various Host and Environmental Factors by Haseeb Anwar, et al. from National Library of Medicine

5. Biodiversity and Health from World Health Organization

6. Why We All Respond Differently to the Same Diet from Murdoch University

7. Healthy Foods Are Different Depending on Individual by Allison Vuchnich from Global News

8. Men And Women Have Different Eating Habits, Study Shows from Science Daily

9. Humans Were Apex Predators for Two Million Years by Tel-Aviv University