Personalized Nutrition: One Day, Your Personal Diet Plan May Exclude Tomatoes and Include Cake

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You veer off your diet once in a blue moon and you’re on the fast track to belly pudge. But your best friend? He’s slinging back Blue Moons and shoving stuffed-crust pizza in his pie hole with wild abandon—yet with no cost to his physique.

It turns out that how bodies process particular foods differs from person to person, according to research published in Cell Press. That’s why you and your friend can go on the same diet, eat the same exact foods—down to the very same macros—and still not achieve the same end result. Simply put, we all metabolize things differently. 

For this study, out of the Weizmann Institute of Science, researchers tracked the blood sugar levels of 800 people over a week, collecting data through health questionnaires, body measurements, blood tests, glucose monitoring, stool samples, and via a mobile app the participants used to record their lifestyle and food intake; in all, 46,898 meals were measured. These volunteers were given identical, standardized breakfasts—such as bread or glucose—too. In return, the researchers provided an analysis of their personalized responses to food. 

As the researchers anticipated, age and body mass index impacted blood glucose levels after meals. But, here’s where it gets interesting: People had very different responses to the same foods, even though their individual responses didn’t change from one day to another. In other words, Joe Smith will always process an apple the same way—but his way is different than John Doe’s way. Get it? Another interesting finding: The glycemic index (how we rank foods based on how they affect blood sugar levels, and a factor doctors and nutritionists use to develop healthy diets) of any given food is not a fixed value. That also will be different for Joe and John.

Here’s an example from the press release“In one case, a middle-aged woman with obesity and pre-diabetes, who had tried and failed to see results with a range of diets over her life, learned that her “healthy” eating habits may have actually been contributing to the problem. Her blood sugar levels spiked after eating tomatoes, which she ate multiple times over the course of the week of the study. For this person, an individualized tailored diet would not have included tomatoes but may have included other ingredients that many of us would not consider healthy, but are in fact healthy for her,” Elinav says. “Before this study was conducted, there is no way that anyone could have provided her with such personalized recommendations, which may substantially impact the progression of her pre-diabetes.”

Right now, the algorithm used by the researchers is pretty complex (blood tests + body measurements + stool samples… and more!). But, they hope to simplify it and make it more accessible. For now, just know that in the future, you may have a tailored diet plan that takes in to account how your individual body metabolizes food.  Here’s to hoping that plan incorporates Blue Moons and pizza. 

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