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Personalized Nutrition

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People Show Different Responses to Same Foods

As most dietitians will tell you, nutrition and diet are not “one plate fits all.” Genetics, body type, lifestyle choices, and gut health are just some of the factors that may affect how your body reacts to certain foods. Recently, researchers from Israel explored the concept of personalized nutrition and what it might mean for blood sugar control. Results are published in the journal Cell.

For the study, researchers continuously monitored blood sugar levels in 800 adults for seven days. Participants were asked to follow their normal diets except for breakfast, which was a standardized meal provided to everyone, and to log the exact amounts of all the other foods that they ate. Researchers wanted to see if post-meal blood sugar levels (known as the glycemic response) varied between participants after they ate the same exact foods.

Indeed, results showed great variance between individuals. The same exact foods caused some participants’ blood sugar levels to significantly rise, while other people showed a moderate or flat response, and vice versa. Even high-carbohydrate foods like bread and cereal showed vastly different responses among individuals. However, when one person ate the same food multiple times, their responses were fairly consistent.

Researchers then took the study a step further. Using personal information such as blood measurements, dietary habits, physical activity and gut microbiota, they developed an algorithm that accurately predicted an individual’s blood sugar response to a meal in a group of 100 people. Next, researchers used the algorithm to develop personalized meal plans for a group of 26 people that were successful in improving blood sugar control.

Results of this study show that when it comes to blood sugar responses, foods cannot be universally labeled as “good” or “bad.” The same may be true for hunger levels, weight management, and other responses to eating. “There is no such thing as one perfect diet,” explains Jenn LaVardera, MS RD of the Dole Nutrition Institute. “Just as people come in all shapes and sizes, diets have to as well.”

How can you best eat for your individual self? Though genetically-prescribed diet plans are a few years down the road, a consultation with a registered dietitian is a good place to start. A dietitian can help you pinpoint areas of improvement, such as eating more vegetables and less refined carbohydrates, and determine an eating plan that works for you.

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