You may have noticed the latest AI boom in writing tools like Chat GPT, but have you thought about where else AI could be popping up?
One of those places could be in nutrition. You may wonder how that's possible, and how it exactly works.
We’re going to answer those questions in this article, and explore how the relationship between nutrition and AI is evolving.
The Role of Nutritionists
Nutritionists help people make better choices around food, by educating them about various food properties, dietary principles, how to plan, cook and enjoy healthy food.
They also work in public health to establish policies for healthier populations, in corporate settings to promote healthier workforces, as well as schools and hospitals and clinics.
Nutritionists can assess the dietary needs of an individual based on factors such as their age, weight, gender and personal goals, as well as seeking to correct imbalances for certain diseases and conditions.
Although food has nutritional qualities, which modern science feels is the essence of what makes food nourishing, it is much more than that. Food also has energetic qualities that cannot be quantified as calories.
That energy is the same energy that is exchanged between a client and practitioner. One thing an AI will never be able to provide is an interaction that is charged with the energetic intentions of healing from one human being to another.
Just like a meal that’s made with love tastes delicious, a practitioner that charges their interactions with healing energy brings the best results for their clients.
The Rise of AI In Nutrition
To understand a place for AI in nutrition, we need to understand what AI actually is.
AI technology refers to a set of technologies that enable computers and machines to perform tasks that would normally require human cognitive abilities such as learning, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making. AI is based on the development of algorithms that can analyze large amounts of data, identify patterns or trends, and make predictions or generate insights.
AI can pick up on trends based on datasets, and then make predictions based on those trends. It makes it easier to offer nutrition at scale, for a cheaper price. It is still however early days, and much research has yet to be done into the aspects of personalisation in nutrition such as with genetics and the gut microbiome.
Using AI in nutrition can also be useful for things like meal planning, which is less sophisticated than the AI that measures human biomarkers to make predictions as to what diets are best suited to individuals.
How AI is changing the game
The kind of predictions that AI can make are based on certain foods that elicit certain responses in the body, such as a blood sugar response, or blood lipid response to a certain food.
There’s been several studies which have measured the gut microbiota of several thousand people, and determined what foods should be avoided in order to prevent blood sugar spikes in other people in response to certain foods.
This is the essence of personalized nutrition, and AI is helping cater to individuals better by being able to sieve through vast datasets to identify trends that make quite accurate predictions.
Advantages of AI over Human Nutritionists
AI will eventually become very cheap once it has been perfected, as well very fast. The advantage of AI in nutrition is that it will be accessible to more people, and potentially be more affordable. At least a certain level of service will be affordable. In more complex cases of disease where multiple bodily systems have yet to be examined, a practitioner and their clinical experience will still prevail.
Ai can offer more personalisation through understanding complex interactions between biological mechanisms and pathways. This is yet to be established at a robust level though, as the mapping of these interactions requires a certain level of human understanding in order to effectively train an AI to establish the relationships.
But with consideration of a wide array of functional data, like what a person's current diet is, what their blood sugar is, what their gut microbiome composition is, as well as their genetics, AI could offer a great deal of personalisation based on the interaction of these, theoretically.
Potential Downsides of AI in Nutrition
Lack of human connection and empathy
One of the main concerns is the lack of human connection and empathy that can come with relying solely on machines for nutritional advice. Nutritionists provide not only dietary recommendations, but also emotional support and motivation for clients, which may be difficult for machines to replicate.
Potential errors in algorithms and data input
Another concern is the potential for errors in algorithms and data input. If the data used to train an AI system is incomplete, inaccurate, or biased, it could lead to flawed recommendations or incorrect predictions. Additionally, there may be ethical concerns around the use of AI in healthcare more broadly, such as issues around privacy, data security, and algorithmic transparency.
Ethical concerns around AI in healthcare
The use of AI in healthcare raises several ethical concerns that must be considered to ensure patient safety, privacy, and autonomy. There are concerns around the privacy and security of patient data, the potential for bias in AI algorithms, the impact of AI on patient autonomy, accountability for AI decisions, and the need for transparency in algorithmic decision-making.
To address these concerns, it is important to involve patients and healthcare professionals in the development and implementation of AI systems, ensure algorithmic transparency and accountability, and regularly evaluate the impact of these systems on patient outcomes. By prioritizing patient safety and privacy in the design of AI technologies, we can help to ensure that these systems are developed and implemented in an ethical and responsible manner.
Balancing AI and Human Interaction
Importance of human touch and understanding
There's far more to nutrition than just cold hard data. A human touch, which makes up the client-practitioner relationship is key to making certain breakthroughs in a clients journey.
Trust is a large element of a client's success, and the kind of trust that a human interaction builds is hard to match with a faceless, soulless algorithm.
Potential for hybrid models
What can work well though is a combination of AI and nutritionists. The low level things like putting together dietary recommendations and predicting blood sugar responses can be delivered by a nutritionist, and explained to them with human elements. After all, a key part of helping a client live a healthier life is making sure that they actually eat the foods that are recommended to them, and not the foods that undermine them.
Behavior change is an element of psychology, and coaches that are also nutritionists are fundamental to this. So perhaps the data driven aspect of nutrition can be handled by AI, with the calculation of a clients energy needs and levels of micronutrients done via automation. However, the delivery and follow through of this could be handled by a human nutritionist.
Role of Nutritionists In an AI-Driven World
While the rise of AI technology in the field of nutrition may lead some to question the future of human nutritionists, there is still an important role for these professionals in an AI-driven world.
One key role for nutritionists could be in helping to develop and refine AI algorithms and data models. Nutritionists have expertise in the science of nutrition and can provide valuable insights into the variables that should be considered when developing algorithms to make dietary recommendations.
In addition, nutritionists can provide important context and interpretation of AI-generated recommendations, ensuring that they are tailored to the specific needs and preferences of each individual client. They can also provide emotional support and motivation, which can be an important aspect of dietary behavior change.
In conclusion, the rise of AI technology in the field of nutrition has led to questions about the role of human nutritionists in an increasingly automated world. However, as we have seen throughout this article, there is still an important role for human expertise and support in nutrition, and there are many ways in which AI and nutritionists can work together to improve patient outcomes.
Looking to the future, it is clear that the integration of AI technology into the field of nutrition will continue to evolve and expand. However, it is important for nutritionists and AI developers to work together, combining their respective strengths and expertise, to ensure that these technologies are developed and implemented in a way that prioritizes patient safety, privacy, and autonomy.
Ultimately, by embracing the potential of AI technology while also recognizing the importance of human expertise and support in nutrition, we can work towards a future in which patients receive the best possible care, tailored to their unique needs and preferences. By working together, nutritionists and AI developers can help to shape the future of the field of nutrition and ensure that it continues to thrive in the years to come.