A healthy food study from the Weizmann Institute of Science suggests nutrition experts must evaluate several factors specific to an individual before recommending healthy meal choices. Researchers evaluated why some people can eat one food and lose weight, whereas others eat the same food with no results.
The study brings to light how important choosing healthy meals are. In a related Inquisitr report, the obesity rate in the U.S. is rising at an alarming rate. Even though we have more healthy food choices than ever before, adults and children are still gaining weight.
The rise in the obesity rate has many health experts scratching their heads. With the research by the Weizmann Institute, we may now be closer to an answer.
Using a variety of methods like blood tests, health questionnaires, glucose monitoring, and stool samples, researchers gathered data from 800 non-diabetic volunteers ages 18 to 70. The meals participants ate and sleep patterns were also tracked using a mobile app.
As reported by the Washington Post, the results of the healthy food study reached an unexpected conclusion. Researchers Eran Segal and Eran Elinav discovered some people’s bodies react one way to a meal while others completely different.
“There are profound differences between individuals — in some cases, individuals have opposite responses to one another,” Segal explained.
Developed several decades ago, the glycemic index (GI) has been the standard for measuring blood sugar level. The GI measures a food’s effect on blood sugar, and it has always been assumed the number was the same for everyone. However, the Weizmann study indicated huge variations among the study participants even though some ate the exact same food.
While age and body mass index did impact blood glucose level after meals, each individual had varied responses to the same food. For instance, one volunteer’s glucose level went up significantly after eating bananas as compared to others. Another experienced a huge increase after eating cookies.
Blood sugar level has been linked to heart problems, obesity, and diabetes. By knowing how a particular food affects an individual’s blood sugar, specialized healthy meal advice can be given that would prevent such problems.
Segal suggests that the study will no doubt affect healthy eating choices, especially with diabetics.
“When people talk to their diabetic friends about foods that spike their glucose level, it’s really different for everyone. That’s the intuition, but, as far as I know, it’s never been demonstrated quantitatively on this scale.”
Elinav said the study shed light on how food and nutrition experts need to think about nutrition and eating healthy. We cannot think healthy meal choices are one-size-fits-all anymore.
The research also showed genes, lifestyle, meals recently ate, and even the bacteria in the gut influenced food response as well.
Based on the findings of the food study, the scientists developed a way to create a personalized healthy meal plan for an individual. According to the Atlantic, the method uses an algorithm which evaluates 137 factors and variations to predict a person’s blood sugar response to different foods.
The algorithm can generate a custom-designed healthy diet based not only on nutrient content but also accounts for individual differences of the person eating it.
To test the algorithm, the researchers asked 26 new volunteers to eat two sets of meals, each designed to be either “good” or “bad” diet choices for that individual. The participants ate the specialized meals for seven days.
Individuals who ate the “good” meals saw a decrease in blood sugar level, as well as changes to the gut microbiota. Interestingly, even though each meal was tailored to the individual, changes to the gut microbiota were similar in all volunteers.
The method proved to be extraordinarily precise.
However, the algorithm can produce some surprising results, as some of the food recommendations were not ones you would expect. Some suggested healthy meals included alcohol and ice cream, but they effectively controlled blood sugar in those specific participants as predicted.
The Weizmann healthy food study concluded that much of the advice given about eating healthy is “conceptually wrong.” To lower the obesity and diabetes rates, Segal and Elinav believe food experts need to change their way of thinking when recommending healthy eating choices.
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