The Mediterranean Diet - Detail - ©

Sunday Musings: Best Diet Will Be Your Personal Diet

We’ve gotten to the point where it seems that the best all-round diet has been identified: the Mediterranean Diet. But there’s still room for further improvement. Artificial Intelligence is making better diets possible. How about a personal diet for your unique needs?

AI and Diet - © and Diet – ©

What could be better than the Med Diet (see photo, top of page)? Declared as close to perfection as modern humans can get? Intrepid researchers say it’s the Individual Diet, as determined by a rainbow of data inputs and a new artificial intelligence (AI) system.

Only AI could handle the job

There’s so much to consider when making food choices and setting eating habits. I like to credit ancient instincts when making food choices and determining eating habits. It’s a wonder us poor, simple humans can get along from day to day without eating ourselves into the hospital, following our cravings and weaknesses.

But we all manage, with the help of out family physicians and official food guides and other assists to stay healthy. In spite of all the packaged and processed foods and other temptations out there. Poor and simple? hardly. We are, in fact, remarkable creatures for our intelligence and forbearance.

So how can AI make our lives better?

Experts now working deep in the computer labs they’re on the verge of taking in every detail of out eating habits, dietary components and related behaviours (such as exercise), and producing an ‘deal’ health plan for each of us, based on our individual needs.

Holly Nicastro is a Program Director in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Office of Nutrition Research, and Coordinator of a program called Nutrition for Precision Health (NPH).

She recently told CNN, “there is no one-size-fits-all diet to stay healthy.” NPH is using AI to develop predictive algorithms, allowing them to assess a wide range of factors that are generally overlooked in nutrition science. Some interesting factors they examine include one’s environment, lifestyle and even social determinants.

Poor diet a monster killer

A recent study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation indicates that about one in five deaths are caused by poor diet. “Our diets affect our growth, development, risk and severity of disease, and overall well being,” Nicastro says. While the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans – and corresponding Guides for Canadians and other countries’ residents – offer a pathway towards better population-wide health, it’s a one-size-fits-all approach that can only take us so far.

The NPH plans to study one million people and build one of the most diverse health databases in history. Study of that database, it’s hoped, will produce guides and algorithms to allow formulation of individual dietary plans for everyone.

My take

Over the past decade or so, we’ve all been made hyper-aware of the importance of not divulging out personal data. The problem centres on access to and the security of that data. What would folks – particularly those already foaming at the mouth about poor data security – think about giving up all the personal information needed for creating optimized individuals diets?

Given their own AI-generated personal diets, how many folks would follow them as closely as would be required to make them effective? As my old paternal grandpa would have said, ‘Cheaters is as cheaters does!” Which means, they always will.

Not to mention that it remains to be seen how much difference individual dietary guides would make in our lives. Will the benefits outweigh the costs?

In fact, wll most of us be able to afford the custom diets AI specifies for us?

Muse on that…

~ Maggie J.