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Personalise Your Nutrition: There Is No Perfect Diet For Everyone

Posted on 23 November 2015

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Many of us know someone who never puts on weight and someone who never loses any, despite being on a permanent diet. New research confirms it’s time to personalise our diets; we all respond differently and what’s healthy for one doesn’t apply to everyone.

With obesity and diabetes wreaking havoc on many countries worldwide, our diets are under huge scrutiny. There are many dietary camps, each claiming specific benefits and superiority over the other. The range of options can also be extremely confusing – ranging from paleo, raw, vegan, vegetarian, wheat free…the list goes on. While each may proclaim their own as the holy grail of nutrition, more research is now confirming that actually, we all have different responses to food. Is it time to treat each person individually when it comes to their food intake?

Paleo proponents often attempt to eliminate refined grains and reduce carbohydrate intake, while embracing fat

Paleo proponents often attempt to eliminate refined grains and reduce carbohydrate intake, while embracing fat

What we’ve learned from each dietary hype is the danger of extrapolating findings too much. The paleo diet was born in part, from the realisation that many fats are healthy and had been unfairly demonised by the ‘low fat’ movement that came before. That movement was again poorly constructed from inconclusive evidence – often causing more damage than good. 

Sure, there are some clear points. Refined sugar has yet to show any dietary benefit, but there’s plenty of evidence of harm in large, regular consumption. Generally a larger vegetable and fruit intake with plentiful fibre seems like a good idea for most of us too. Where it gets a bit more tricky is when it comes to specific fat ratios, meat, and how each of us can respond differently to things like sugars. 

A recent study found that a mutation has led populations like the Inuit to have a different fat metabolism, especially in regards to omega 3. Proponents of paleo diets heavy on meat and fat often source the Inuit as an example of health, but this finding may indicate that a high fat intake doesn’t fit everyone. Different racial groups historically had different diets, and there is evidence these have left ancestral marks on our DNA.

“Most dietary recommendations that one can think of are based on one of these grading systems; however, what people didn’t highlight, or maybe they didn’t fully appreciate, is that there are profound differences between individuals – in some cases, individuals have the opposite response to one another, and this is really a big hole in the literature”

In the latest development, a team in Israel tracking blood sugar in 800 people for 46,898 meals, found that even after the same meal everyone’s blood sugar response varies considerably. The GI, or glycemic index, of a good indicates how much it will raise your blood sugar after eating. A low GI food generally indicates slow sugar absorption, which doesn’t cause a harmful spike and corresponding drop (which those refined sugars are so bad for). 

The study astonishingly found some people's blood sugar level rose more from sushi than icecream

The study astonishingly found some people’s blood sugar level rose more from sushi than icecream

“Measuring such a large cohort without any prejudice really enlightened us on how inaccurate we all were about one of the most basic concepts of our existence, which is what we eat and how we integrate nutrition into our daily life”

What was really interesting about this study, is how much it revealed about individual biology. One subject was having blood sugar spikes after eating tomatoes, and yet these are generally considered a great option. It may be that some lucky people can handle more cookies than others, and perhaps it’s time to start testing people for those types of responses. If we knew more about how our individual genes have predisposed us, then we could structure our diets accordingly. 

“Maybe we’re really conceptually wrong in our thinking about the obesity and diabetes epidemic, the intuition of people is that we know how to treat these conditions, and it’s just that people are not listening and are eating out of control – but maybe people are actually compliant but in many cases we were giving them wrong advice.”

Further analysis of microbiome data and individual genes could reveal ways to improve dietary habits for everyone. Finding out your own specific needs could help you refine what foods you consume, and whether in the future everyone might be able to alter their microbiome to improve blood sugar responses. 

Read more at Business Insider

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