Personalization: Research Backs New Popular Idea
It is common practice for government health institutions to come up with broad dietary guidelines that should achieve similar goals for any individual, but a new U.K study has thrown a spanner in the works of the common blueprint model.
The new study investigated around 1000 participants including over 200 pairs of twins over a period of two weeks and found varying results when these individuals were placed on the same diet plan. These new findings threaten to complicate years of conventional knowledge but might be key to solving some diet conundrums like the well-documented failure to achieve weight loss for participants in low-carb or low-fat diets.
Diet Personalization and Food Response
The study involved researchers placing subjects on similar meal plans and then tracking indicators like blood pressure, blood sugar, insulin and fat levels while also monitoring sleep patterns and physical activity levels throughout the experiment. They also checked for intestinal microbes and their findings were quite surprising as they found food responses varied wildly from individual to individual with effects on blood sugar and fat levels not following a steady pattern.
These results are consistent with a major phenomenon that has been observed in previous studies where a section of subjects have very different outcomes from the main group. Many individuals will also relate to the frustrations of not realizing weight or fitness goals even when sticking religiously to a diet regime.
Diet Personalization Is The Key
Dieting is complicated as the reaction to foods is hard to predict and companies such as ZOE (who funded the experiment) offer a specialized consumer nutrient test that promises to predict the health impacts of food for any individual. Diet personalization is not a novel approach and has been tried before where genetics was used as the basis to group individuals, but these efforts failed with inconclusive results.
The new angle provided by the study seems to suggest that microbiomes (gut bacteria) may be the key as research findings have proved that the overlap to gut microbes is close in twins and unrelated individuals, suggesting an explanation for the different responses to food.
Implications on Dietary Guidelines
So can personalization offer useful insights into the type of results we can expect from a specific diet? Not quite as experts warn more research is needed before a foolproof method, whether based on genetics, microbiomes or a combination of the two. The consensus for proponents of following dietary guidelines and personalized diets agree that a diet plan rich in fruits and vegetables providing sufficient minerals, fiber and vitamins should be the foundation.
Cutting down on carbs and processed foods and products is also a common ground while low-carb, low-fat, high-protein and other suggestions remain open to contention. It is still important to remember that works for one person might not for the next and as we diet, we must keep an open mind to avoid frustrations. As more research becomes available perhaps dieting will be more straightforward in the near future.