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It's a technology revolution that aims to take the fun out of choosing what to eat. It's artificial intelligence married to nutrition and the environment that will select the best foods for us and have long-term effects on the planet. You might already have an app on your iPhone that does similar things, or have seen smart refrigerators that can help us plan meals, order our foods and teach us how to prepare them. Or maybe even a robot named Rosie who helped the Jetsons at every mealtime.
Why has it taken more than 50 years for Rosie to come to our rescue?
Well, it's all about the genome and the fact that we just can’t seem to get people to eat what’s good for them.
Decoding one’s genome allows us to personalize diets tailored to meet our nutritional needs and even prevent future illnesses and ailments that were otherwise inevitable. A paper entitled “Diet-Gene Interactions and PUFA Metabolism: A Potential Contributor to Health Disparities and Human Diseases,”published in the journal Nutrients, makes the case that “the modern western diet (MWD) has increased the onset and progression of chronic human diseases as qualitatively and quantitatively maladaptive dietary components give rise to obesity and destructive gene-diet interactions”. The result is that there is a rush to market, as reported by ExtremeTech.com, of personalized genetic diet tools that can help.
Pathway Genomics offers direct-to-consumer genetic testing packages, including the PathwayFit report, which purports to analyze a host of mutations related to how a person processes sugars, fats, nutrients and vitamins, based on specific genetic mutations, at $599.
DNA Doctor, an iPhone app, uses the raw genetic data from one’s 23andMe AncestryDNA or FamilyTreeDNA report to analyze mutations related to diet.
Google’s Im2Calories uses artificial-intelligence machine learning and image recognition to estimate how many calories are in a plate of food, based just from your smartphone’s photo.
These are all about learning what to eat and why, but the one I am truly intrigued by is called NotCo, based in Chile, which uses what the company calls cutting-edge science to change the actual composition of food, making it both healthier for people and the environment.
And while it might seem too far-fetched or even scary to some, let’s remember why initially the number of digits used for phone numbers was capped at seven -- repeatedly, studies have demonstrated that the human brain has a kind of functional constraint built into it that makes it difficult for a person to juggle more than seven variables at a time.