Advances in genomics generated the concept that a better understanding of individual characteristics, e.g. genotype, will lead to improved tailoring of pharmaceutical and nutritional therapies. Subsequent developments in proteomics and metabolomics, in addition to wearable technologies for tracking parameters, such as dietary intakes, physical activity, heart rate and blood glucose, have further driven this idea. Alongside these innovations, there has been a rapid rise in companies offering direct-to-consumer genetic and/or microbiome testing, in combination with the marketing of personalised nutrition services. Key scientific questions include how disparate datasets are integrated, how accurate are current predictions and how these may be developed in the future. In this regard, lessons can be learned from systems biology, which aims both to integrate data from different levels of organisation (e.g. genomic, proteomic and metabolomic) and predict the emergent behaviours of biological systems or organisms as a whole. The present paper reviews the origins and recent advancement of ‘big data’ and systems approaches in medicine and nutrition. Conclusions are that systems integration of multiple technologies has generated mechanistic insights and informed the evolution of precision medicine and personalised nutrition. Pertinent ethical issues include who is entitled to access new technologies and how commercial companies are storing, using and/or re-mining consumer data. Questions about efficacy (both long-term behavioural change and health outcomes), cost-benefit and impacts on health inequalities remain to be fully addressed.