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Is Personalized Nutrition a Thing?

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A recent study is pointing to the fact that not all bodies respond to the same foods in the same way, meaning that a diet that works for one person might not work for the next. The research was published in the journal Cell Press.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science used 800 participants to track their blood sugar over the course of a week. They did blood testing, glucose monitoring, stool samples, and had the participants fill out questionnaires throughout the process. They also recorded every bite of food they ate throughout the week, as well as their activity level. For the sake of the study they were also given the same standardized breakfast.

The researchers were not surprised to find that different age groups and body types had different blood glucose levels after they ate, but they were interested to find that different people had different glycemic index reactions to different foods. So for one person a certain food might raise the blood sugar more than for the next person. Each individual seemed to process the same food the same way, so they were consistent within their own body even though the next guy might be totally different.

Here is a specific example from the study.

“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. 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.”

So for this person, simply not eating tomatoes could significantly transform their health. This makes a certain amount of sense even though it is unclear why it happens. You’ve probably seen a friend do well on a certain eating plan that you could never go anywhere near and vice versa. Certainly people respond differently to things like caffeine as well and how they metabolize medications.

Unfortunately at the moment how the researchers come to this conclusion is pretty complicated, but at some point in the future it might become simplified which would mean that more of us could get a personalized reading of how foods affect our individual bodies. The goal with that of course is that we could only eat things that are really good for us, and skip the seemingly healthy foods that aren’t.

In the meantime it’s certainly something to keep in mind when you’re reading about the next fad diet or superfood. Always pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods and you might be able to piece together some of these findings on your own. And maybe you already have.

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About Kate Ferguson Kate Fergus is a Los Angeles local and freelance writer for a variety of blogs and online magazines. When she's not writing, the UC Davis graduate is focused on pursuits of the entertainment industry, spin class, and hot sauce.

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