Study reveals health benefits of personalised advice

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | Mikos
Getty | Mikos
Personalised advice may evoke more health benefits than generic advice in elderly people, according to an analaysis executed as part of a collaborative research project between TNO and Wageningen University and Research.

The nine-week intervention study found that personalised advice (PA) on nutrition and exercise had a positive impact on the health of people aged 60 and above, including a reduction in body fat percentage and hip circumference.

Results revealed that, overall, seniors receiving lifestyle advice over a period of nine weeks, either personalised or generic, improved physical function. 

However, PA participants also showed a reduction in body fat percentage and hip circumference, whereas these parameters increased in the generic advice (GA) group.

Resilience and motivation slightly improved only in the PA group, whilst mental health and energy showed slight improvement only in the GA group.

Iris de Hoogh, research scientist at TNO who helped carry out this study, points out that this is one of the first studies using a holistic approach towards personalised nutrition.

"Personalised nutrition and health is still a relatively young and emerging field of research. Most studies so far took a fairly monodisciplinary approach towards personalised nutrition, by focusing only on a few personalisation factors (e.g. only genetics) or health outcomes (e.g. glucose response to foods).  

"We believe that true personalisation requires taking into account an individual’s health status, as well as their current lifestyle, preferences and personality.

"Additionally, just providing advice may not be sufficient to achieve health benefits. Behavioural change techniques can be used to motivate individuals to actually change their lifestyle. Our study was the first that attempted to combine all these aspects in one integral nutrition advice system."


A total of 59 independently living participants (22 males, 37 females) with a mean age of 67.7 ± 4.8 years were included in the study. 

All participants were were at least 60 years old; reported sedentary behavior for at least 10 hours a day; were in good health and had a self-reported BMI of 20–30 kg/m2.

Participating seniors were not informed about the purpose of the study (single-blind). Participants were randomly allocated to either the intervention group or the control group balanced for gender, muscle health (i.e. hand grip strength) and socio-psychological factors.

Before and after the intervention period, self-perceived health was evaluated as parameter of wellbeing using a self-perceived health score (single-item) and two questionnaires. Additionally, anthropometry and physical functioning were assessed.

The generic advice for improving muscle health was based on the national food-based dietary guidelines as published by the Netherlands Nutrition Centre. Participants were provided with a leaflet contained guidelines on the consumption of five categories of basic food products as well as generic guidelines for an active lifestyle, meaning at least 30 min of physical activity per day.

The PA group received the same leaflet as well as personalised advice through an online portal. The PA promoted muscle health among seniors and was in line with national and international recommendations provided by the Health Council of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Nutrition Centre and International expert groups. The PA involved nine elements, of which seven focused on diet and two focused on physical activity. The content of the nine PA for each participant was determined with underlying decision trees incorporating biological and genetic (SNP) personalisation factors.

Previous studies​have demonstrated beneficial effects of personalised nutrition advice, but it remains unclear whether personalisation of advice based on genotype or phenotype has additional value compared to personalisation based on dietary intake alone. 

Personalised Nutrition & Health programme

TNO and Wageningen University & Research have taken on a Personalised Nutrition & Health Programme​ initiative aiming to help individuals to be able to adopt an eating pattern precisely attuned to their needs 

Hoogh says that this study helped with their aims of designing a personalised advice system.

"The (small) additional health benefits of personalised advice as compared to generic advice in a population of elderly people not only provides backing to continue our research and our search for effective components in personalised health. Also, the knowledge and experience we gained in designing our personalised advice system and performing the study are very valuable in optimising our system and translating this to other target groups.

"Within the Personalised Nutrition & Health research consortium we use these lessons learned in developing and validating the technology and knowledge needed to make personalised food and health advice possible on a large scale, and enabling consumers to make their healthy choice."

Source: Physiology and Behaviour

“Beneficial effect of personalized lifestyle advice compared to generic advice on wellbeing among Dutch seniors – An explorative study”

Authors: Doets. E.L., et al

Related topics Research Personalised nutrition

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