When promising technologies see the light, it can be difficult to make sound predictions about their future utility.

Technical breakthroughs that promise to transform society tend to bewitch the mind. Their tremendous potential begs for interpretation by more dreamlike imaginary powers.

When nuclear power was young, for example, the impact this new technology promised to have on society was interpreted by some in the futuristic imagery of nuclear reactors in every car, in every house, and in every kitchen range.

For a short while, every human energy problem seemed to have a nuclear solution.

Today, new gene sequencing technology is beginning to transform how we think about medicine. Personalized medicine is just around the corner. It promises to adapt both prevention and treatment of disease to the individual’s genome.

– How far can this promising new form of medicine be taken?

Two investigators from Albert Einstein College of Medicine recently suggested personalized medicine as a solution to the obesity and diabetes epidemic in the US and other parts of the world… where eating habits call for alarm.

The authors’ argue that costly prevention efforts could be targeted at those individuals whose genomes make them most likely to benefit. Such a personalized approach to the diabetes epidemic is suggested not only for the US, but also for developing countries where diabetes is spreading rapidly and public health resources are scarce.

I’m certain that personalized medicine will be very useful both in prevention and treatment of diabetes. But is it reasonable as a solution to the diabetes epidemic?

I may be wrong. But I cannot avoid seeing the suggestion as an attempt to “find a personalized medicine solution to every human health problem.”

Instead of targeting high risk individuals, and doing so generation after generation while we continue to expose them to the same dangerous eating habits that low-risk individuals adopt (and are enticed to adopt), why not consider efforts (like those of Jamie Oliver) to change globally spreading eating habits?

I admit that my judgment may be wrong and that I fail to understand the potential in this particular case.

What is the answer to the obesity and diabetes epidemic? Revolutionary medicine or a food revolution?

Pär Segerdahl

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