Diet for one? Scientists are tracking the dream of a personalized nutrition


"This research is fascinating and important," said Tim Caulfield, a researcher in law and health policy at the University of Alberta in Canada. Nevertheless, "if history tells us anything, he tells us that it is unlikely to revolutionize nutrition."

On the one hand, he said, the basic parameters of a healthy diet are already well known: a lot of whole grains, legumes, dark leafy vegetables and other vegetables, enough healthy seafood and very little red meat or refined carbohydrates. The problem is not that the guidelines are wrong or insufficiently customized, Mr. Caulfield said, but that people do not follow them.

Even focusing on individual food choices or metabolism can distract attention from other major contributors to the obesity epidemic, he said: "This is a fantastically complex issue that relates to our built environment, socio-economy, food environment, marketing and activity levels – all of which are things."

As a study, Predict is still in its infancy; whatever individualized recommendations it may provide, there is still no evidence that they can improve a person's health better than the usual dietary recommendations. Nevertheless, its scope and rigor are new.

"This will require additional validation, and does not equate to the prevention of heart disease, cancer or other outcomes," said Dr. Topol. "But this remains important if we want to achieve the ideal of" diet as medicine "."

Participating in the study can be grueling. The subjects are first subjected to an exhaustive battery of tests, including hourly blood samples and analyzes of their fat and bone mass, in a hospital environment. Then, for two weeks, they must consume a series of "meals" – a selection of muffins containing different combinations of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, as well as fiber bars, glucose-based drinks and protein shakes. Any other food or drink consumed must be weighed and recorded.

Each participant wears a continuous blood glucose meter and accelerometer to measure the level of activity and sleep, and provides samples of saliva, urine, stool and blood – everything except tears.


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