The Hacker’s Diet: Should we be looking at nutrition like a computer nerd?

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

'If this trend comes to the fore, younger tech-savvy – largely male – consumers could be interested in cognitive health,' says analyst
'If this trend comes to the fore, younger tech-savvy – largely male – consumers could be interested in cognitive health,' says analyst

Related tags: Nutrition

The age of Silicon Valley and Digi-everything has seen the dawn of a new diet trend: ‘Biohacking’.

Proponents of the idea include John Walker – founder of the American multinational software company Autodesk – who wrote the diet plan e-book ‘The Hacker’s Diet’.

Walker takes this techy background to argue our diets should be approached like “an engineering problem" –​ with a model of how many calories are consumed and expended and a log of how this impacts our weight.

Elsewhere, Dave Asprey, Silicon Valley investor and author of The Bulletproof Diet, urges us to ‘hack our own diet’.

He claims to have lost 45 kg, upped his IQ by 20 points, lowered his biological age and learnt to sleep more efficiently in less time. 

digital nutrition food internet

It’s about seeing the body like a computer and aiming to optimise performance, Euromonitor International analyst Simone Baroke told us.

“This is the age of the IT nerd,”​ she said. “This is a high tech food diary and with it everybody can become their own Guinea pig.”

While the actual dietary recommendations were questionable, it was interesting in that it summed up so-called ‘digitek’s’ permeation of the nutrition world, Baroke said.

'A misbehaving electronic circuit' 

Walker wrote in his book: “I studied the human body the way I'd tackle a misbehaving electronic circuit or computer program: develop a model of how it works, identify the controls that affect it, and finally adjust those controls to set things right.”

Walker and Asprey are not alone. There has been a proliferation of nutrition apps in recent years, urging people to take control of their health from their hand held devices. 

Researchers too have tapped into the trend​ - using internet surveys and apps to gather data and deliver advice. 

Unlocking hard sells

Dementia memory ageing cognitive brain

Baroke said this idea could be used to unlock hard health sells like products positioned for cognitive health, which typically would not appeal to younger consumers who were yet to suffer from age-related memory loss.

According to Euromonitor data, food supplements positioned for memory health were worth $341.1m (€311.05m) in Europe in 2014 – up from $323.3m (€294.74m) in 2012.

However Baroke and fellow Euromonitor analyst Diana Cowland have said in the past that cardiovascular benefits like a reduction in cholesterol held greater appeal than brain health since a difference could be seen in a month, while taking a product to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's in 30 years’ time was a less engaging timeline.

So called ‘biohacking’ could unlock interest in cognitive health from younger consumers, Baroke said, as they could monitor cognitive health with spreadsheets, applications and performance tests and treat the brain as a key part of their 'electronic circuit'.

“If this trend comes to the fore, younger tech-savvy – largely male – consumers could be interested,”​ she said. 

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