Everywhere you look, there’sanew diet book that’s all the rage with patients, oranexercise program “guaranteed” to shave inches off tummies, thighs, butts,and handlesin alllocations.
Likewise, there’s plenty of hype about genomics, and the potential for genetic information—now readily obtainable for relatively little cost—in helping people to get healthy and avert disease.
Many of our patients are experimenting on themselves with these approaches, and in some cases the experiments pay off. But often, the fad diets, exercise regimens, and genome-guided lifestyle changes have little impact. In some cases, it could be downright dangerous to dabble with major diet or exercise changes.One size definitely doesn’t fit all.
We are complex organisms made up of genes, butour environments determinetheways our genes will express themselves.As the saying goes,genes may load the gun,but the environment pulls the trigger.
This makesfinding individualized health regimens custom tailored to each patient’s body type, environment, and family history all the more important.
And that’s where a new clinical guidance company called ph360comes in.
ph360 is an algorithm for determining phenotypes and epigenetic profiles, and then figuring out custom-tailored, one-of-a-kind nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle plans. The company’s website states that this interactive tool can calculate the, “distinct relationship between your body’s measurements and physical traits to its physical functions, hormone secretions, metabolism, and lifestyle preferences.
Ph360’s founderMatt Riemannsaysthe companyis absolutelycommittedtorapidly growinga healthier population. “The real key to our health is written in our body’s unique code. And we’ve cracked it. Now that we can translate that code, we have the opportunity to be a thriving, happy and healthy society,”he says.
The system asks users to input a host of anthropomorphic measurements, along with detailed information about family history, dietary habits, and environmental factors. It then takes all those measurements and analyzes them according to a complex matrix of ratios and biostatistical probabilities to zero in on the user’s biotype.
Riemann explains that ph360’s approach is distinct from genomic testing in that it assesses the user’s phenotype—the way genes are expressed—rather than the genetic codes themselves. Variables like hair color, stature, skin type, and muscle mass--as the physical expression of the genes-- are quantifiable parameters that can be used to evaluate an individual from "the outside in".
Think of it as “phenomics.”
Riemann claims that by carefully measuring physical traits and personal health variables, and analyzing these in the context of endocrinological, embryological, and hereditary information, ph360 can provide users with accurate, relevant, individualized and actionable information without the need for genetic sampling.
Ph360 researchersdeveloped the complex algorithmsand thousands of data points that make up the system over the last 10 years. In addition to conventional biometric measurements, the system also integrateslogic derived from ancient healing systems like Traditional Chinese MedicineandAyurveda.
“The best part is that it is all evidence based,“ says Riemann. The company holds series’ of conferences and courses to help medical professionals as well as lay users understand the system and get the most out of using it.
Dealing with Difference
The company is committed to making good on the promise of the so-called “personalized medicine” revolution.
“We are all so different,” Riemann says. “We all have very, very different microbiomes, different genes, we have different hosts, and different organisms living inside of our bodies. Everything is connected and everything affects everything else.”
Ph360’sphenotypic analysis ofthe body’sinternal and external environment iscalled thePersonal Health Assessment. Itlooks atphysical measurementsand current health indicatorslike physical structure, behavior, general attitude,and response to food and exercise.
The resulting body profileincorporates six lifestyle categories: mind, food, fitness, place, social life, and talents. In each category, ph360 provides tips that will work for the user to help optimize health and achieve wellness goals.
The process of changing one’s lifestyle can be overwhelming for some patients, “especially those that aren’t already in tune with their health needs,” says Toni Morberg, ph360 relations coordinator.
She stresses that along with guidance from trained healthcare practitioners, the information provided byph360 helps people get and stay motivated. It “helps you see improvement in health conditions like migraines, autoimmunity, digestive issues and other chronic illness.”
Test Driving ph360
I recently tested the ph360 system in my integrative holistic family practice, and I found that the current version of it has numerous pros and cons.
On the positive side, I like the fact that the system really can help patients stay motivated, by closely tracking their changes over time. It can also give the “not already in tune with health needs” patients a good place to start on the journey to improving and optimizing their health.
However, I did find the system overwhelming, especially when it produced a list of more than 400 foods one can and cannot eat, but without specific meal plans or guidelines. The lifestyle recommendations generated by the system are pretty general and would be great with everyone, but they are not as individualized as they could be.
In some ways I felt it to be like an advanced health “horoscope” (for example, it can tell me on what days of the week I should go on vacation)-- a perception reinforced by the fact that the company would not reveal much specific detail about its algorithms and formulas.
Riemann did state that the company goes in-depth on the mechanics of the system during its training programs.
He acknowledged his “ambitious goal of abolishing chronic disease by 2050”.
With this mission in mind, ph360 is on its way of launching Shae, a more advanced versionof the appthatprovides expanded services with voicetechnologydetailingoptimal food, exercise,andrest times that work best foreach person. The company is positioning Shae as “the world’s most advanced virtual health assistant,” one that is compatible with a number of wearable devices.
I do believe that tools like these have great potential in helping to guide our patients through the dizzying maze of nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, and self-care modalities now available. I am hoping that the new Shae system will improve upon the limitations of its predecessor, and emerge as a tool that can truly help us all move toward Riemann’s vision of a healthy, thriving population. It is certainly a worthy objective!
Madiha Saeed, MD is a holistic family physician in Bend, Indiana. She trained at National University of Science and Technology and completed her residency in 2010 at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. She is board certified in both Family Medicine and Integrative Holistic Medicine, and has a particular passion for womens’ health and family health issues. A busy mother of four young boys, Dr. Saeed shares her “walk the talk” nutrition & lifestyle tips and her lively “bring it on” spirit with families worldwide via her HolisticMomMD website, and her new book The Holistic Rx.