Personalized nutrition is predicted to be the next billion-dollar trend, and some of the best weight loss apps remain free
Chiropractic offices and clinics specializing in nutrition and weight loss have, unfortunately for our health as a nation, a clientele that continues to grow with no end in sight.
Roughly two out of every three Americans are overweight or obese. Almost 50 million Americans “go on a diet” every year, creating a weight loss industry of more than $70 billion, according to blog.marketresearch.com.
This health crisis has provided a lucrative market for nutrition and weight-loss technology. Virtually everyone owns a smartphone, and health and fitness apps number around 120,000. An NYU Langone Medical Center study showed that 60% of smartphone users have downloaded a health app.
Apps for DCs and patients
Results from a Kaiser Permanente study revealed that keeping a food diary can double a person’s weight loss, creating more consumption awareness and encouraging healthier choices, always an option for patients looking to meet the specific carb/protein/fat ratios of diets.
There are also the best weight loss apps that help people pick nutritional options when eating out at restaurants, and apps for making healthy choices when at the grocery store, scanning the bar codes on packaged foods. For patients who complain about the difficulties of hitting their nutritional or caloric targets, these apps are a great way to educate regarding nutritional principles along with the nature of hidden sugars, carb amounts and total calories in foods otherwise thought of or promoted as “healthy.”
Apps arriving, on the horizon
The next phase for health apps, as the technology grows, will be the gradual introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) and AI-like applications.
Already available in certain apps are machine-learning meal planners that help individuals reach a certain weight or fitness goal by not only counting calories but also applying data such as body composition, past weight-change data, “cheating” rates, when the person gets hungry throughout the day, when they get tired during the day, and other measurables.
One app trumpets using the power of AI to analyze meals and recipes and match them to the user’s physical activity, stress and sleep levels, food sensitivities and more to create a food “life plan,” including daily coaching tips.
Some applications are going farther than nutrition data, providing genetic profiles to help patients reach their weight-loss goals and change their lifestyles in the process.
One innovation is using biomarkers to create a genetic profile to help make more informed health choices. The biomarker testing service uses an app so users can then take the data to tweak their nutrition and exercise levels. After a blood test, users can see their current biomarker levels, providing insight into how their body may or may not be programmed and results that are in or out of certain ranges.
A writer for Forbes says, “I gave [the app] a go in a bid to aid my triathlon training in August and to help me follow my vegan diet to a performance level, but without losing weight or muscle. To make sure that I was getting adequate nutrition and didn’t lose weight while actively training, [the app] advised me to reinforce my importance of calorie-dense foods, such as avocado, nuts, nut butters, seeds, etc. It also encouraged me to log my calorie input to assess macros to ensure I was consuming at least 100-112g per day and not losing weight but having the fuel I needed.”
The best weight loss apps will utilize personalized nutrition
These are examples of personalized nutrition services and products, which financial services company UBS predicts to be a $64 billion market in 20 years. Companies such as Apple, Amazon and Google are already trying to get out in front of personalized nutrition.
“Health data in Apple Watch could be combined with genetic information to offer personalized nutrition,” UBS analyst Charles Eden said in a note to clients.
Eden said he sees four major industries capitalizing on personalized nutrition:
- Medical diagnosis firms for diagnosis and results;
- Technology companies for wearable tech and integrated platforms;
- Food (and supplement) producers to meet nutritional demand; and
- Food delivery companies to meet consumers’ increasing demand for convenience.
“The Apple Watch is already being used to study heart rates, perform ECGs, study eating disorders, track fitness and many other health metrics,” Eden said.
One hurdle to this personalization wave in nutrition and weight management is data privacy. Will consumers allow their medical, biological or genetic information to be shared with other parties? Recent data breaches and failures have not been adding to consumer confidence.
New weight-loss tech
Aside from weight-managing apps, weight-management technology is also on the horizon in terms of products, devices and supplements.
A pill (which the U.S. Food & Drug Administration is approving as a “device”) is in the process of being brought to market that is intended to trick the body into thinking it has eaten a meal. This pill is designed to kick off the digestion process, hopefully leading to fat burning and a metabolic boost.
The research for this process is from the Salk Institute and published in the journal Nature Medicine.
“This pill is like an imaginary meal,” says study author Ronald Evans, director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory. “It sends out the same signals that normally happen when you eat a lot of food, so the body starts clearing out space to store it. But there are no calories and no change in appetite.”
In the study run on mice the drug in the pill, fexaramine, also curbed weight gain and blood sugar levels, and reduced bad cholesterol and inflammation in the body. Human trials of the pill/drug are on the horizon.
A similar product, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in April of last year and expected to come to market in 2020, is a capsule filled with hydrogel particles that, when taken with a full glass of water before a meal, fills a person up. But tests of this product have shown only modest weight loss to date.
These technologies and some of the best weight loss apps are offering chiropractors specializing in nutrition and weight loss an added arsenal of technologies and supplements to offer patients struggling with weight management, adding to DCs’ efforts to provide overall health and wellness coupled with chiropractic care.
RICK VACH is editor-in-chief of Chiropractic Economics magazine and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.