Nutrigenomics – The Future of Personalized Health?
Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
Many businesses and brands have discovered that personalization and individualized content create an improved, more satisfying user experience for today’s consumers. In fact, psychological research has shown that personalization is a very effective marketing strategy in a world where shoppers are struggling with information overload. This is especially true when it comes to diet and nutrition where conflicting messages make consumers question and doubt what they are doing. Some brands, such as Nutrisystem are using nutrigenomics (the scientific study of the interaction of nutrition and genes) as a way to help consumers find personalized solutions for weight management. Courtney McCormick, MPH RD, Manager of Clinical Research and Nutrition for Tivity Health, which recently acquired Nutrisystem answers questions regarding how this testing may apply to the retail setting:
What benefits could genetic testing provide at the supermarket?
Genetic testing in the retail space offers the opportunity for retail RDs to provide an even greater personalized experience for their customers. For example, we all know that eating fruits and vegetables are important for a healthy diet, but if a DNA test could tell someone whether or not they are predisposed to being on the lower end of normal for certain vitamins and minerals, the RD can help guide them to more specific recommendations. Retail RDs could also tailor the resources they share with customers, such as recipe cards. For example, if a DNA test informs someone that they may be more likely to benefit from a higher protein diet for weight loss, than the RD could provide recipes for higher-protein meals and snacks. When someone receives more personalized food recommendations, they may be more likely to be compliant. In the end, this will not only benefit the customer by shaping positive lifestyle habits, but can increase customer loyalty and drive retail sales of better-for-you products.
What retailers are currently providing genetic testing?
There are a few retail outlets (CVS, Walmart) that do offer direct-to-consumer genetic tests located within the pharmacy, however, I don’t know of any that offer a full program where a customer could take the test and then be provided an in-person consultation with an RD. I think there is a great opportunity for supermarkets to offer a program like Nutrisystem’s DNA Body Blueprint. With the results, an RD could walk the customer through their report and provide guidance on specific food choices that can help ensure successful weight management.
Any other thoughts you want to provide regarding supermarkets and genetic testing?
As direct-to-consumer genetic testing continues to grow, it will become important for retail RDs to establish a basic understanding of nutrigenomics, and become familiar with the strengths and limitations of popular DNA program reports. Even if their supermarkets doesn’t offer a genetic testing program, more consumers will be taking these tests on their own and may seek advice from retail RDs regarding how to translate their report into food purchase decisions.