‘All of Us’ Need Personalized Nutrition

‘All of Us’ Need Personalized Nutrition
Enormous health initiative expands efforts to analyze food and dietary habits.

The All of Us research program at the National Institutes of Health is expanding, this time with a focus on individual responses to food and dietary habits.

All of Us integrates genetic, EHR, lifestyle and environmental factors submitted by hundreds of thousands of participants – and counting. All of these data are managed and monitored through the All of Us Data and Research Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The data can be used to, for example, identify precise disease risk factors or pinpoint the most appropriate treatment modalities for different populations.

With $170 million in new NIH funding, researchers across the nation will soon be using the data to develop algorithms that predict an individual’s nutritional responses.

“Nutrition is the bedrock of good health, but the same recommendations for everyone misses the opportunity to get to better outcomes,” said Shari L. Barkin, M.D., chief of general pediatrics at Vanderbilt.

Barkin will serve as lead scientific adviser and nutrition content expert for the new program, which is called Nutrition for Precision Health, or NPH.

Building on Expertise

Barkin’s own research has identified DNA methylation patterns in children that are associated with emerging obesity in childhood. She is a longtime advocate of an integrated approach to nutrition and obesity, having found broad nutrition and physical activity guidelines often fall short of obesity prevention in individual children.

“Given its data inclusivity and sheer scale, this new program from the NIH has potential to advance our understanding of individualized precision nutrition as few other population studies ever have.”

Since All of Us makes a concerted effort to recruit participants across demographics, results from the NPH program may be the most inclusive integrated database to guide personalized nutrition discovery, Barkin says.

“The same recommendations for everyone misses the opportunity to get to better outcomes.”

Expanding Capabilities

NPH data curation and researcher accessibility will be coordinated by the Data and Research Center at Vanderbilt, led by principal investigators Paul Harris, Ph.D., and Dan Roden, M.D.

“The Data and Research Center will be responsible for establishing and maintaining NPH data pipelines and harmonizing with other data sources available through the All of Us program,” Harris said. “We want to make these data and algorithms available to a broad and diverse researcher network through our Researcher Hub and Workbench.”

Harris and colleagues will build infrastructure to support NPH data collection and use for approximately 10,000 individuals who sign up to participate in the NPH program. New data types will include microbiomes and metabolomics along with granular dietary assessments. The team is working with multiple partner institutions, including nutrition scientists, data generators and artificial intelligence experts, Harris said.

Accessing Results

As All of Us steadily climbs toward its goal of one million participants, the program is already sharing data and tools freely with researchers. An online data browser is available to view de-identified information drawn from surveys, EHRs and even wearable technology such as the Fitbit. Researchers with a need to go deeper can apply for more granular access through the Researcher Workbench.

The program is currently supporting more than 1,100 active research projects. These include efforts to understand health outcomes of sexual and gender minority people, effects of the pandemic on certain populations, and associations between historically disparate diseases.

Those interested in serving as participants in the All of Us research program can enroll online.