Personalized Nutrition: The Future Has Arrived

I found such an interesting article[i] yesterday in the Wall Street Journal about new companies that offer microbiome testing in order to help optimize the diet.  I’ve never had any doubt that this was the wave of the future (and in fact have posted about it before) but didn’t realize that the future is already here – at least in part.

Research shows that people can have diverse physiological reactions to eating the same food.  That is, the same doughnut can evoke entirely different blood glucose responses, explaining why some people are much more prone to gaining weight.  The bacterial microbiome (which as you know, is affected by everything from our diets to sleep, stress, exercise, antibiotic use, etc.)  is very much a key player in this phenomenon.

In 2015, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel conducted a double-blind study that showed that – amazing as it is – some people produce less glucose after eating a bowl of ice cream than they do after eating sushi!  Based upon this research, the company, DayTwo, analyzes a stool sample and, based on an algorithm they’ve licensed from the Weizmann Institute that “…connects microbiome composition with predicted glucose responses,”  provides dietary recommendations.  (The kit is $349.) This can make a big difference, potentially, in health, metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and weight loss.  What makes this all even more exciting is that DayTwo teamed up with the Mayo Clinic to see if they could replicate the Israeli study, substantiating the reliability of the algorithm.  The results were close enough that they are considered “replicated,” adding validity to the testing.

A second company, Viome, looks at not only gut bacteria, but also viruses and fungi.  (Their kit is $399.) While they do not yet have any peer-reviewed literature backing up their test methods, they are currently conducting a study on 2000 people and those results should be available later in the year.

One interesting point made in the article:  if you change your diet based upon the recommendations, then won’t the gut bacteria also change?  The answer is likely yes and so, Viome includes a follow-up analysis as part of its fee.  DayTwo is waiting until it’s better established that the microbiome will change significantly enough require retesting.

There is obviously a huge amount more work to be done in personalized nutrition, but I was pretty thrilled to learn that at least some testing is already a scientifically-substantiated reality.

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[i] https://www.wsj.com/articles/dietary-advice-based-on-the-bacteria-in-your-gut-1519614301


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