Why Personalised Diets Are the Future

December 4th, 2015
A new study into personal nutrition has shed light onto the problematic world of dieting. Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel have found that people respond very differently to the exact same dietary intake. Everything we thought we knew about food could possibly be wrong, with the exact same foods affecting people in vastly different ways. With individual metabolism influencing us more than originally thought, personalised diet plans are likely to play a big role in the future.

Professor Eran Segal and Dr Eran Elinav led the study, with results published in the journal 'Cell' in a paper called 'The Personalised Nutrition Project'. The study involved 1000 healthy and pre-diabetic people aged between 18 and 70, with volunteers measured, tested, and given various health questionnaires regarding diet and exercise. After analysing the collected data, Segal and Elinav made some ground-breaking observations regarding individual body response mechanisms and the importance of personalised nutrition.

According to Elinav as he was presenting his findings at a conference for the Australian Society for Medical Research, "The first super surprise was how differently the response was to the same food. For example, you could easily find people who had a much higher glucose response to ice-cream than rice. You could also find people who had the exact opposite response and who would spike from rice but not ice-cream. In fact, about 70 per cent of people didn't spike on ice-cream."

While scientists have long known about the impact of personal metabolism, this study showed just how different we are from one another. "There are profound differences between individuals - in some cases, individuals have opposite responses to one another," said Segal, explaining why the very same diet can affect people in vastly different ways. Alterations in gut microbiota are largely responsible, with gut bacteria levels and types linked to obesity, glucose intolerance, and diabetes.

Instead of following the same exercise and meal-plans as everyone else, the future of dieting is likely to involve a personal evaluation with a trained nutritionist. By testing blood sugar levels after eating certain foods and analysing how people respond to exercise and sleep, people can develop an individualised diet plan that suits their personal weight loss needs and works with the limitations of their lifestyle. A team of researchers are currently conducting a second study to find out just how long-lasting the benefits of a personalised approach really are.

With 40 percent of the global population currently defined as overweight and 13 percent defined as obese, personalised diets are needed sooner rather than later. "The study opens up huge opportunity to benefit people across the world," said Elinav, adding that "We believe our approach could introduce a viable solution to contribute to the fight against the obesity epidemic... Assume months rather than years."

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