Research shows that people are exquisitely unsuccessful in predicting the future. Always have been. This hasn't changed even with the insane amount and accessibility of information.
We'll probably need to wait until artificial intelligence becomes of age to see significant advances in the quality of predictions. And to see the student overlap the teacher. That will be fun. And creepy.
Why do we even bother then?
They say that the human need for predicting stems from searching for the safety and stability. Not knowing what the future brings makes us afraid and powerless. That's why we seek even false feelings of safety and control that the glance into the future gives us.
So, having that in mind, let's predict what the future of nutrition bears!
The current main trend in nutrition is without a doubt the advance in the field of nutrititioanl genomics. This is what ultimately led me to Spain for a PhD study in nutrigenomics and personalized nutrition. In short, nutritional genomics studies the interaction of human genes and the food consumed. It contains two sub disciplines – nutrigenomics and nutrigenetics. Nutrigenomics explains the influence of food on genes, and nutrigenetics studies the influence of gene diversity on food metabolism.
This multidisciplinary science promises a complete individualization of diet, a step further from current semi-individual approach based on physiological, lifestyle, and dietary factors. Nutritive genomics is far more precise, it looks deeper, beneath the hood. It observes the bodily response on a genetic level, invisible to the eye, giving us more precise and faster answers, before a certain dietary practice causes an effect on a visible (phenotypic) level.
Nutritional genomics is a foundation for development of personalized diet, one tailored to your genes.
„Everybody reacts in a different way“ is the most common reply when people try to justify their alternative dietary habits. However, even though they didn't come to this conclusion via research, it turns out they're not so wrong.
Though people share 99,5% of genome (we are 99,5% identical), remaining 0,5% contains enough individuality to cause distinct reactions to the same stimuli. For example, a difference in just one letter of our genetic book (nitrogenous base) can be responsible for genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia.
Unlike genetic disorders, chronic diseases linked to diet are multifactorial. This means that the genetic component is just one of the factors in their development, making its role a lot harder to detect.
The concept of a diet made exclusively for you and your genes sounds tempting, but we are still far away from understanding the orchestrated way that our body functions in. World's leading institutions warn that nutrigenomics isn't ready for commercial use, regardless of the fact that nutrigenetic tests are already present on the market.
Also, albeit we are different, remember that we're still 99,5% the same, so diet can be personalized only up to a certain point.
Nutritionist of the future
Nutritional genomics and individualization aside… Basic question in nutrition is not (any more) what to eat, but how to make people change their dietary habits. How to find a way in a world that makes us eat more and in a worse quality than we should. Nutritionist of the future will emphasize the psychology of habit change. They will focus on individual work with clients, or working in small groups. I think we can now safely conclude that the experiment with the general advice for the public didn't go so well.
Nutritionists will be more aware of the context of the diet. It doesn't matter only what you eat, but how you eat, with whom, where, what you believe in, what's your budget, what are your preferences. Nutritionist of the future will take all this into consideration, including the genetic profile of a person.
Consumer of the future – changing the perception about nutrition
It's very modern and cool to consider diet very important and a cure for all diseases. Especially as an alternative to the evil pharmaceutical industry. However, it is not. Diet, along with a healthy lifestyle, is the best known prevention to different diseases, but it is not a cure.
I am looking forward to the day when diet will be seen like dental care. When people will take care of it not by reading suspicious blogs but through counseling with a nutritionist. Sounds surreal? Imagine a world where no one visits the dentist until their teeth start falling out at around 45 years of age. I believe we are on our way to accept nutritionist as an expert who will help us improve our health.
I am also looking forward to the day when people will become aware of their nature, among other things the lust for sensationalism. So aware they'll be able to resist it by understanding there is no place for sensationalism when it comes to diet. In other words, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't. I believe we are slowly outgrowing the phase of simply accepting all information that is served to us.
I also believe that in the future, the number of Instagram photos hashtagged #cleaneating will drop, and diet will stop being the object of ideology.
Digitalization and automatization
We live in the information age. Everything is digitalized. Everything is automatized. And that's great. This trend will ensure easier life with more free time if we learn to spread the benefits through all layers of the society.
The number of conveyor workers has been reduced. Every job that demands physical work can be done by robots, faster and more precise. Even if we were brave enough to abandon old concepts and think more seriously about the universal basic income, the process of assigning automated work to robots would be even faster.
However, there are vocations that won't be replaced that easily. Nutritionist is one of them. Nutritionist work takes a significant psychological component that computers (still) cannot give.
My fellow nutritionists, we can sleep peacefully because the nutritionist of the future will not be a robot (for now).