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Longevity Briefs: Nutritional Redundancy: A New Way to Measure and Optimize Your Diet for Health and Longevity

Posted on 19 July 2023

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important:

This research is important because it introduces a new concept of nutritional redundancy (NR) in the human diet, which measures the part of food diversity that is not reflected in nutrient diversity. The authors show that NR is a universal phenomenon across different cohorts and time scales, and that it is largely determined by the nested structure of the food-nutrient network. The authors also demonstrate that NR can serve as a potential metric to modulate individual dietary patterns and study the correlation with different health outcomes, such as healthy aging, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

What did the researchers do:

The researchers analyzed five comprehensive datasets with dietary intake data collected from different cohorts and on different time scales. They constructed a reference food-nutrient network based on existing databases and calculated the NR for each diet assessment of each individual3. They also randomized the food-nutrient network and the food composition using different schemes to test the impact of network structure and food assembly rules on NR. They assessed the correlation between NR and existing healthy diet scores and evaluated the performance of NR in predicting healthy aging using random forest classifiers. They also examined the association between NR and the risks of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease using Cox proportional-hazard models.

Key takeaway(s) from this research:

  • The food profiles vary substantially across individuals and over time, while the nutrient profiles are highly stable across individuals and over time.
  • The food-nutrient network has a highly nested structure, meaning different foods share a few common nutrients, but some foods are specialized to include some unique nutrients. This structure contributes to the high NR observed in the human diet.
  • The NR is not strongly correlated with any classical, healthy diet scores, but its performance in predicting healthy aging shows comparable strength. Moreover, after adjusting for age, a high NR is associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

How are the results applicable to humans:
The results are applicable to humans because they provide a new perspective on how to optimize dietary intake for health promotion and disease prevention. By measuring and adjusting the NR of one’s diet, one may be able to achieve a more balanced and diverse nutrient intake, which could have beneficial effects on various aspects of health and aging. Moreover, the results also offer a novel way to analyze the food-nutrient relationship using network science tools, which could lead to more insights into the complex interactions between food components and human physiology.

We hope you enjoyed reading this longevity brief and learned something new about nutrition science. If you want to read the full paper, you can find it here.

Thank you for your attention and stay tuned for more exciting discoveries in longevity. Until next time, stay healthy and happy! 😊

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