Diet fads come and go, and it seems like every day there is a new diet trend being touted by social media influencers and TV personalities. Whether it’s to lose weight or prevent disease, everyone is looking for an easy, no-fail diet that will work for them.

Some diets take an evolutionary approach like the paleo diet, based on foods our ancestors ate during the Paleolithic era. There are supporters of the raw food diet, who believe heating food can destroy enzymes that boost digestion and fight chronic disease.

Other diets try to capitalize on the body’s genetic makeup, such as the blood type diet. The theory behind this diet is that different blood types are tied to the ability to digest certain foods. In other words, the proper diet for a certain blood type could improve digestion or help prevent disease.

Maybe the day will finally come when the “magic” diet will be discovered for a “one-size-fits-all” approach to losing weight or staving off disease. But until that day, what if you could have a diet specifically made for you? This diet would be based on your body’s makeup as well as foods that are in season, available in your neighborhood and designed to provide you with the best health benefits.

What about diets for people who are sick or hospitalized and need a specific eating plan? Their goal may not be to lose weight, but to get healthy again and be released from the hospital. The answer may lie in personalized diets tailored to each individual person, better known as precision nutrition.

Precision nutrition may be a complement to the future of medical care where diet plans could be designed based on a person’s treatment plan. For example, a patient being treated for diabetes would be put on a low-sugar diet. A cardiac patient in recovery could be provided with a diet of whole grains, lean poultry and fish.

Each diet would be tailored based on the doctor’s medical treatment plan and a patient’s cultural food preferences. The meal plan would be designed to look and taste good and may be the best form of medicine patients can receive to help them feel better again.

Learn more about the Center for Precision Medicine and Data Sciences at UC Davis Health

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That’s the main idea behind the new Precision Nutrition initiative at the Center for Precision Medicine and Data Sciences, led by Dr. Fred Meyers. This is an interdisciplinary program spanning multiple fields of study. It works in collaboration with key stakeholders throughout the university and community, including UC Davis Health Executive Chef Santana Diaz and Food and Nutrition Services, as well as other UC Davis groups including the Department of Nutrition and UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP).

A precision nutrition program could improve hospital patient nutrition and care and help streamline hospital food supply procurement. Additionally, it would boost local farm economies, reduce the carbon footprint, and ensure that the products purchased are sustainable and healthy.

With the leadership abilities of Dr. Meyers and the culinary vision of Chef Diaz, the Precision Nutrition Program will make UC Davis Health a national leader in hospital nutrition and demonstrate that healthy food can also be delicious.

Additional resources:

Be one in a million: Massive $1.5B precision medicine research effort kicks off

NPR: Changing your diet can help tamp down depression, boost mood The Precision Medicine Initiative

Governor's Office of Planning and Research: California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine