In this insightful article by Kirsten Flanagan, we dive into the transformative future of healthcare, emphasising the significance of disease prevention and personalisation. Delving deep into the power of lifestyle interventions, the rise of technology in health diagnostics, and the potential of personalised nutrition, Flanagan presents a compelling case for how we can revolutionise our approach to health and longevity.
The healthcare industry is undergoing a significant shift from a focus on disease treatment towards disease prevention. Lifestyle interventions are the new medicine, and what you put into your body is central, with personalised supplements becoming a powerful tool.
Reimagining Traditional Healthcare
Undoubtedly, the traditional healthcare system revolutionised medicine, successfully eradicating and treating many diseases. Yet, those that still remain are, by implication, not effectively treatable after the fact. However, it turns out that the four major killer diseases, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurodegeneration, are largely preventable through lifestyle interventions. It’s clear we need a different strategy.
The Human Body’s Dashboard
The traditional approach to healthcare is like fixing a car’s gearbox after it breaks instead of proactively checking the oil to prevent it from breaking. But, unlike the car and its parts, we never designed the human body, so understanding where and when to intervene with our health hasn’t always been so clear. But that’s all about to change. With the significant advancements in health technology and diagnostic tools, we now have our very own “dashboard” to monitor our bodies, both retrospectively and in real-time.
Personalised Nutrition: A Frontier in Health
The role of lifestyle habits in longevity and preventing disease is well established, and what you eat is now seen as a major player in this equation, with personalised nutrition taking centre stage. Thanks to advancements in technology and science, customising nutrient intake based on genetics, biochemistry, and lifestyle is now possible. As a result, personalised nutraceuticals, or nutritional supplements, offer a cutting-edge solution for optimising overall health and preventing disease. They’re the medicines of prevention.
Genetics: The Blueprint of Personalisation
Unlocking the potential of personalised nutrition starts with understanding your unique biology. Genetic testing looks at SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms), which not only indicate genetic predispositions to illness but, more importantly, reveal slight genetic weaknesses that can be remedied with vitamins and minerals.
Individuals can possess varying degrees of efficiency in their enzymes due to genetic differences. These enzymes either produce the active forms of micronutrients or require them to function. For example, a mutation in the MTHFR gene reduces folate production, an important B vitamin necessary for creating new DNA. Supplementing with appropriate levels of folate can reduce or prevent developing health complications. Delving into your personal genome doesn’t have to be scary and should, in fact, be done by everyone. You may be walking around with a slight genetic weakness that could be eliminated with the proper supplementation.
While DNA tests can provide valuable information about your body’s genetic tendencies, other diagnostic tools such as microbiome analysis, blood tests, and organic acids tests provide more in-depth views of the individual’s current health status, including factors such as nutrient deficiencies and metabolic imbalances.
The Era of Biowearables
The rise of sensor technology is revolutionising the way we measure and monitor our health. Whether it’s your step count or your sleep, you’re likely tracking some health metric already. The latest biowearables are designed to gather and interpret raw health data and turn them into actionable insights for nutrition, exercise, sleep, and medication, empowering individuals to make informed decisions about their well-being.
The popular Apple Watch tracks various health measurements, such as heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and calories burned, as well as features like ECG recordings and menstrual cycle tracking. The Oura ring, a sleep wearable that accurately understands your sleeping patterns, also measures body temperature and even has the ability to detect pregnancy. Soon, these devices will be not only on our bodies but inside too and throughout our environment.
Biotechnology: The New Age of Health Monitoring
The growth of real-time biomarker-measuring devices is particularly thrilling. One example is the continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which provides insight into your blood sugar levels by continually monitoring it from a patch on your arm, displaying the impact of your food choices, stress levels or exercise in a neat graph. Another device, a breath analyser, determines whether your body is burning primarily fat or carbohydrates. Game-changers for identifying nutrients or habits that improve or impair your health.
These sorts of leaps in biotechnology are quickly making health monitoring faster, more affordable, and widely available. With the convergence of advanced health tests, innovative sensors and sophisticated AI, we can now look at our health at the cellular level. With this level of precision, accurate nutrient recommendations can be made instantly, enabling us to make informed decisions about nutrition, exercise, and sleep.
A Glimpse into the Future
Imagine opening your front door to receive your monthly, personalised supplement that contains all of the nutrients you need based on your current health status. The powder contains precisely dosed vitamins and minerals, expertly crafted to meet your needs down to the microgram. And it’s even flavoured to your liking – ‘creamy Madagascan vanilla with reduced sweetness’ – and has your name printed on it.
Prevention Over Cure
Prevention and personalisation are transforming the healthcare industry, bringing the power of health directly into the hands of us, the consumers. Rather than replacing the traditional healthcare system, modern, personalised wellness can complement it as hospitals evolve to concentrate on urgent, critical needs while medical professionals focus on predictive and proactive health management. Critics may argue that these tools and tests are too costly. However, as technology progresses, scan times decrease, and more people begin to manage their own health, economies of scale will become apparent, making them increasingly accessible.
The thing is, our bodies are excellent at hiding diseases. Early-stage cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s only display symptoms once it is sometimes too late, and this is where the bulk of healthcare costs are spent. Just like with your car, the only way to find out what is going on inside is to actively look.
Get to know our own health baseline. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
- Golubnitschaja O, Kinkorova J, Costigliola V. Predictive, Preventive and Personalised Medicine as the hardcore of ‘Horizon 2020’: EPMA position paper. EPMA J. 2014 Apr 7;5(1):6. doi: 10.1186/1878-5085-5-6. PMID: 24708704; PMCID: PMC3985551
- University of California – Berkeley. “Good News In Our DNA: Defects You Can Fix With Vitamins And Minerals.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2008.
BSc Human Physiology and Biochemistry, Hons(Med) Exercise Science
Business Development at TAILORBLEND.
With a BSc in Human Physiology and Biochemistry and a medical honours in Exercise Science, I am driven to bring personalised nutrition to more people around the world. I enjoy helping companies grow by identifying opportunities for innovation, partnerships and product optimisation. I have had the unique opportunity to work alongside some incredible mentors early on in my career who have guided me and ultimately led me to develop a global network in the nutrition, health and wellness space. My passion for health optimisation and biohacking (using science and technology to improve human performance) keeps me actively learning within the evolving health, wellness, and fitness space.