Your friend has cut out sugar and feels amazing as a result. Another friend, on the other hand, is on which sometimes appears to be a strict all-candy diet and still stays perfectly healthy and trim. And you have tried both of these dietary tactics and have seen no real changes in your own body.
The same might be said for dairy or carbs – regardless of the nutrient might be, you likely know from experience that simply because some diet works best for someone else, that does not suggest that it’ll meet your needs. Everyone’s is different, of course, which means everyone’s body responds to food a little differently. Which, some scientists across the globe are actually arguing, points to the possibility way forward for healthy eating. The important thing to fighting the increasing threat posed by diabetes and obesity might be personalized diets – that is, eating plans tailored especially for each individual – rather than the generalized nutrition guidelines we have now.
The response is inside your gut – specifically, the trillions of bacteria currently residing there. Two scientists currently studying the interaction between your gut microbiome and diet are Eran Segal and Eran Elinav, the biologists behind the Personalized Nutrition Project in Tel Aviv. Preliminary is a result of their research, presented earlier this summer at the Human Microbiome conference in Germany, suggest that a computer algorithm can predict how individuals’ bodies will react to particular foods, thus creating a tailored meal plan for every according to his very own unique bacterial profile.
This project began more than two years ago and has to date included more than 1,000 people. Segal and Elinav first instructed their participants to put on glucose-monitoring devices, which measured and recorded their levels of blood sugar every 5 minutes for a week; additionally they used a mobile app to record what and when they ate that week. Altogether, they collected data on a lot more than 50,000 meals and snacks, plus how everyone’s blood-glucose levels taken care of immediately each food.
Your gut converts the food you eat into sugars, that are subsequently released in to the bloodstream; after that, these sugars are either converted to energy or stored away as fat. Certain foods cause too muchsugar circulation into the bloodstream, which too-high degree of glucose within the blood is exactly what can lead to such things as diabetes and obesity. But what foods do this? This is part of the point of nutrition guidelines, to recommend the meals least likely to cause this potentially dangerous spike in blood glucose
But using their data, Segal and Elinav often see the people in their study were responding to similar foods in wildly various ways. “Already, we’re able to see at a very large scale that, indeed, for just about any food we looked at, we could see a huge variability within the response,” Segal said. “Some people, you give them sugar and they’ve a very faint response – even going to pure sugar. Whereas others, they have a huge response. And this holds for basically every food that we examined.” There were more surprises. “Some individuals, they eat whole-wheat rice as well as their blood-sugar levels remain low, and when they eat ice cream they spike,” Segal said. But for others the results showed just the opposite.
Theirs isn’t the first study to locate an individualized response to similar foods. Studies of twins, for instance, show that even people with identical DNA sometimes respond differently towards the same diet. And thus these results, the researchers argue, suggest “that a universal diet, or universal guidelines, they could never work for everybody, because individuals are different,” Segal said. “General guidelines are going to have limitations, plus they might be bad for many people.”
But why might this be? Segal and Elinav thought that when they could comprehend the underlying mechanism that might explain these differences in reactions, they might possibly learn how to predict them. Their investigation requires a turn here in to the gross: They took stool samples from 800 of the participants, sequencing the genes in every person’s DNA, and used this to accomplish profiles from the bacterial composition of every individual’s gut. (Basically, they knew that a particular gene exists in a particular type of bacteria, so if they discovered that gene, this means that bacteria is present, too.) They combined this using the records on their glucose responses to particular foods and used the 2 data sets to create a computer algorithm, which would create a list of foods that will not trigger that spike in blood-glucose levels.
To investigate the algorithm’s accuracy the researchers started the research that would later be presented in the Human Microbiome conference. They used the algorithm to tailor diets for 25 individuals, all of whom had sufficient blood-sugar levels to be considered prediabetic. A few of the foods included on the “approved” list were not exactly the foods you may expect. “For some people it included chocolate, frozen treats, pizza – things a dietitian would not prescribe,” Segal said. (Lots of others didn’t, of course, and stuck to such things as whole grain products or veggies.) For just one week they ate according to their personalized food plan; the following week they ate a diet which was similar as a whole calories consumed and was at line with increased typical dietary guidelines for prediabetics. Following the week following their personalized diet, fewer individuals experienced those spikes in blood glucose when compared to their week around the standard diet; some of them even saw their blood-sugar levels dip back down to healthy levels.
It’s an intriguing finding, though greatly still an initial one. More research needs to be done involving thousands more and more people, who’re followed for a longer period of your time, before anything becomes definitive or clear. And it’s also worth noting that other scientists focusing on the hyperlink between your gut microbiome and diet are skeptical from the notion that this research will eventually lead to eating plans targeted at an individual person. Jens Nielsen, a biochemical engineer at Chalmers University of Technology, believes it’s more likely this research will eventually lead to groupings of people, categories of individuals who react to food items in similar ways.
Nielsen is co-author of the study published recently within the journal Cell, which discovered that individuals with more diverse populations of gut bacteria are healthier even when they’re overweight, in comparison with individuals with less diverse bacterial profiles. Within a decade or so, Nielsen expects that his work might be applicable to weight reduction. He’s currently focusing on the inverse of the problem, investigating the microbiomes of children in developing nations who just can’t put on weight, even if eating foods expressly made to help them achieve this.
And Segal and Elinav expect their work, too, will eventually be made open to a wider group of people thinking about a personalized diet plan, though, again, the practicalities listed here are undeniably unpleasant. (Musing on future applications of the work they do, Segal and Elinav often see a global that becomes mainstream to mail stool samples in to the lab to obtain diet advice.) We’re still many years away from that, however the more these researchers consider it, the more individual differences they find, each discovery undermining the idea of blanket nutrition guidelines a little further. “The entire nutritional paradigm all of us base our decisions on within our study is known as at least partially wrong,” Elinav said. “So we are shifting the paradigm to the people.”
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This article originally appeared on nymag.com