Imagine a personalized diet based on your unique biological makeup, where just by opening an app you can see if a food is healthy — for you. Biologists in Israel think they might be able to make that happen, though their research, published Thursday in Cell, remains preliminary.
The research focused on the way the body’s blood sugar changes after a meal, using a marker known as postprandial glycemic response. High PPGR has been shown to be associated with obesity and to be a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and liver cirrhosis.
In a study of 800 participants, the scientists showed that PPGR varies widely among individuals, even when they eat the same meals. This may explain why many diet plans don’t work for many people, said Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and one of the report’s authors.
The scientists collected data through health questionnaires, body measurements, blood tests, and stool samples. Then, over the course of a week, participants completed a daily diary of their meals, exercise, and sleep habits, and had their blood sugar levels continuously monitored.
Using that data, the team developed an algorithm to predict how individuals would respond to a particular meal.
They only tested it on 26 people, so it’s not fully vetted, but they’re already working on commercializing it. Segal’s company, Israel-based DayTwo, is currently developing the technology for consumer use.
Segal said he hoped pre-diabetics could use the tool to keep their blood sugar under control. He said he also hoped that it would help people stick with their diets, if they realized that certain foods were not as detrimental to them as they might have thought.
“One of the features of our personalized diets is that they contain ‘surprising’ foods like ice cream, or chocolate, that can appear on one’s diet and that would not normally appear in universal dietary guidelines,” said Segal. In fact, the blood sugar levels of some people rose more after eating sushi than after eating ice cream, researchers found.