It seems everyone has an opinion on nutrition these days. It’s not even so much of an opinion anymore but a sort of dogma. “Thou shalt eat this way or risk one’s health irreparably.” You read it all over the internet and magazines every day. There is always someone spouting the “real” healthy diet we should all be eating. For the average person, these diet wars are frustrating and confusing. To make matters worse, some of these seemingly healthy diets can be downright harmful, especially if someone is already at high risk for chronic disease.
The truth is, we are learning more and more about biochemistry every day, and what we are finding is that everyone’s body responds differently to different foods. Part of this is genetics, part of it is diet, and part of it is a host of other factors such as lifestyle, environment, and even a person’s particular microbiome.
A recent study published in Cell Magazine provided great insight into this (1). Entitled “Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Response,” it looked at the glycemic response among subjects eating similar food items. They had 800 non-diabetic participants who agreed to eat a particular breakfast containing 50g of carbohydrate every morning for a week while having their blood glucose continuously monitored. The researchers look at post-prandial (post meal) glucose in the morning but also evaluated their blood glucose levels the rest of the day while eating their normal diets.
Surprisingly, many subjects responded very differently to the exact same breakfasts. When it came to other foods later in the day, there were stark differences as well. Some saw huge spikes in glucose after high carb foods such as ice cream or bread, while others showed only a modest increase. personalized recipes
While it was interesting that so many differences could be seen between the participants with the very same foods, it was also interesting to note that the glucose response within a particular individual remained constant, ie if they ate the same meal the next day, their blood glucose response would be roughly the same. The researchers could even start to predict what their post-prandial blood glucose would be based on the choices they made.
This really got me to thinking. For years we’ve been told by the American Diabetes Association how to educate Diabetics on their diet. If you’ve ever been in my office you may have heard me talk about carb counting, glycemic index, and balanced meals. It is a one-size-fits-all approach. Diabetics can have 45-60 grams of carb per meal, for example, and we usually talk about healthy ways to stay within those guidelines. While these still have their place, it’s clear the particular foods one chooses to meet those guidelines, and in fact even the guidelines themselves, are not set in stone.