Personalized Wellness Is All About You

Dr. Sears and Personalized Wellness blogWe hear a lot about personalized medicine, and less about personalized nutrition. Zone knows the difference, and can help you feel better and perform better.

Personalized Medicine: Genetic Code Dictating Treatment

One definition I’ve read on personalized medicine is: “The practice of medicine that uses an individual’s genetic profile to guide decisions made in regard to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. Knowledge of a patient’s genetic profile can help doctors select the proper medication or therapy and administer it using the proper dose or regimen.”

Great fanfare, but it has generated few results, since this definition totally ignores the impact of epigenetics and lifestyle (diet, exercise, and stress reduction) that can both alter the expression of your genes.

This is emphasized in a recent article in the New York Times, called When Gene Tests for Breast Cancer Reveal Grim Data but No Guidance, where a patient received conflicting medical opinions after a genetic test revealed she had inherited a gene mutation.

This relatively inconvenient truth has led to the development of the new term of precision medicine which can be defined as “identifying which approaches will be effective for which patients based on genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.”

However once you insert the word “medicine” into any phrase, this legally means you are using interventions to “treat, cure, prevent, or diagnose” a disease. Unless you are licensed to prescribe prescription drugs, then you would be illegally practicing medicine by using such terms and very likely to have a visit from the authorities.

Confused? You should be. But like they say in TV infomercials: “but wait there’s more.” And that’s where personal nutrition comes in.

Personalized Nutrition: It Feels Better

Without words like “medicine” that get lawyers up in arms, legally, “personalized nutrition” could mean treating a nutrient deficiency like scurvy with vitamin C, or using an upper limit of a nutrient to meet a qualified health claim.

When you use a nutrient at a defined upper limit dose, it has been shown in a number of clinical trials to have a “structure-function” benefit. This benefit may provide stronger bones or better vision. And again, legally, practitioners must include modifiers like “may” or “could help support” in front of that qualified claim. This really doesn’t give the consumer a lot of confidence.

So how can you inform consumers without violating the rules?

One of the most researched nutrients in history is fish oil. Here is what the FDA allows you to say about fish oil:

Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”

Hardly a health claim that makes you stand up and take notice every time you hear it!

Avoiding this morass of legal definitions, I instead like to use the term “personalized wellness.” So what is personal wellness?

My definition is simple: “Personal wellness is feeling better and performing better.”

The Validation is in Your Blood

Instead of discussing the use of a drug (as in personalized and precision medicine) or a nutrient (as in a qualified health claim), I use the blood as my validating statement for personalized wellness.

In personalized wellness, there are three clinical markers that define whether you are well or not. Your clinical markers can be found by blood testing:

Clinical MarkerRangePrimary Source
TG/HDL ratioLess than 1Your food
AA/EPA ratio1.5 to 3Your fish oil – test yourself!
Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c)5.0%Your polyphenols

These are blood markers for wellness. They also happen to be the blood markers that define the Zone.

In the Zone, you are well. Outside the Zone, you may not be sick, but you are definitely no longer well. That means you aren’t feeling as well as you could nor performing as well as you could. Furthermore, this is not a multiple-choice test. Unless all those blood markers that define the Zone are in their correct ranges, you are simply not in the Zone. My best estimate is less than 1% of Americans are in the Zone, which means more than 99% of Americans are simply not well. This is one case where you want to be a “1 per center.”

Just like climbing a mountain, there are many paths to the top. Some paths are hard while others are easier. The same is true of reaching the Zone. I personally think the Zone Diet is the easiest dietary path to the Zone, but there may be other paths.

If your blood indicates you are in the Zone, then whatever you are doing, keep it up. Of course, if you aren’t in the Zone, then keep adjusting your diet and lifestyle until your blood indicates you are there. From this perspective, there are no bad or good diets or lifestyles, just more difficult or easier pathways to the get to the Zone.

Does being in the Zone mean you will never get sick or will live forever? Of course not! It just means you will feel better and perform better. If that is important to you, then let your blood guide you to that point.

Once you reach the Zone, real healthcare reform becomes a lot easier to understand and a lot less expensive to maintain. Why? Because your wellness is about you. And it should be personalized.


  1. Kolata G. “When gene tests for breast cancer reveal grim data, but no guidance.” New York Times. March 11, 2016.

Tags: , , , ,

About Dr. Barry Sears

Dr. Barry Sears is a leading authority on the impact of the diet on hormonal response, genetic expression, and inflammation. A former research scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Sears has dedicated his research efforts over the past 45 years to the study of lipids. He has published 40 scientific articles and holds 14 U.S. patents in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems and hormonal regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. He has also written 14 books, including the New York Times #1 best-seller, The Zone, which have sold more than 6 million copies in the U.S. and have been translated into 22 different languages.


  1. Barry Sears

    Being in the Zone only indicates that you have done as much as possible by the diet to reduce chronic low-level inflammation. That will only give you more favorable odds, not a guarantee, of not having a return of the cancer or development of any other chronic disease condition..

    • Alan Black

      Thanks Dr. Sears, cancer is like a cloud of uncertanty, and you have to learn to live with that, and do the best you can and help others get the message. I agree that food is the most powerful drug and tool that we have at our disposal to improve our health. Any literature you can recommend to learn more about anti-cancer foods; apart from reducing chronic low-level inflammation in our body and cells what other processes we need to understand and what practical solutions we can implement to help our immune system fight cancer.?

      • Barry Sears

        The best way to manage cancer is not to overburden the immune system. That is why I believe reducing cellular inflammation is the foremost way to proceed. Fortunately, an anti-inflammatory diet is easy to integrate into your lifestyle. Other non-dietary factors would include stress reduction that will reduce the levels of cortisol that can also dampen down the immune response and moderate daily exercise that will increase immune responses. These are all activities that you have complete control over.

        • Alan Black

          Thanks, and don’t we all know that, good nutrition, exercise and stress reduction, that’s all you can really do, and that’s a lot and a good thing. Thanks and all the best to you. I already feel less stress.

  2. Alan Black

    If you are in your way to the zone, andemonstrate the you have cancer, you get treatment, you are cancer free now and you want to get there faster, do you have scientific evidence that staying in these Wellness Zone will help prevent more cancer?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *