Trends 2018, Part III – Innovation in Personalization

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John Agwunobi, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., Chief Health and Nutrition Officer, Herbalife Nutrition | Herbalife Nutrition​ | December 14, 2017

Some of us remember talk of the so-called “Me Generation.” A time when a rising segment of the population was focused only on themselves and wanted products catered solely to them.

 

That kind of talk was probably a bit misguided. However, there is truth to the idea that consumers want to have things tailored for their specific needs and wants, whether it’s fashion or food or fitness or anything else; that’s always been the case.

 

Personalization, in other words, is not a new concept to most industries, health and wellness included. Yet more often than not, the nutrition and fitness field has been content to go with the latest fad diet or the most effective “one size fits all” approach as a way to promote smarter eating and healthier lifestyles.

 

That’s not the case any longer. And, I believe 2018 is likely to see the trend toward personalized nutrition pick up steam, gather momentum, and accelerate even faster.

 

Personalization is Nothing New

The idea of nutrition and better eating as a pathway to resisting disease and improving health is not a new idea. Over 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates advised physicians to “leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal your patient with food.” But even as doctors have learned how to tailor treatments to meet the health needs of each individual, we have yet to come up with diets tailored to do the same on a person-by-person basis. That’s changing before our eyes.

 

With increasing frequency, consumers are interested in learning more about how they can improve their overall health and well-being. They have more information than ever before about their genetic predisposition, their metabolism, their physical activity level, and their dietary habits. They can discover new details about themselves through at-home DNA tests. They can track everything they taste, eat and do, on wearable devices and smartphone apps.

 

With so much personal data in the palm of their hands, people want to feel more empowered to create their own eating patterns – they want a menu of options to choose from, and they want immediate results.

 

A Challenge – and an Opportunity

For all that we’ve learned, and continue to understand, about the human body, genetics, medicine, and nutrition, personalization runs into one core challenge: it’s still new as a formal field of study and as a part of our industry. Research in this space continues to evolve; our comprehension of nutritional genomics is just emerging; what the best strategies are is up for debate.

 

While the adoption of wearable devices has increased in hopes of measuring physical output and the intensity of exercise, studies indicate that these devices don’t necessarily make you any fitter. They help collect information; seldom do they change behavior. There are studies that indicate self-monitoring – that is keeping a food or exercise diary – may in fact have a greater impact on weight loss.

 

Personalized nutrition is an area with massive room for innovation. And the fact that the Herbalife Nutrition core philosophy of providing access to personalized nutrition to millions of people around the globe is even more relevant today than it was when the company was founded in 1980 indicates we are in a position to lead our industry in providing customized solutions to consumers around the world.

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