Back in 2018, I described research to you out of the Weizmann Institute in Israel, which involved creating an algorithm to figure out the optimal diet for someone based upon their microbiome analysis results.[i] That research led to the creation of the new company, DayTwo, which provides personalized nutrition for those with metabolic diseases. This idea of personalized nutrition absolutely fascinates me and I am sure it is the wave of the future.
These scientists continue to study individual responses to diet, based upon the microbiome.[ii],[iii],[iv] As I’ve talked about several years ago, they had a huge cohort of study participants, 800 people: the purpose of the study was to look at how these individuals’ bodies responded from a blood sugar point of view to various foods. The researchers created standardized meals that consisted of a known amount of calories and carbohydrates. Each participant logged their daily activities, meals, medications and other habits for 1 week. They also collected information from blood tests and microbiome samples. This vast amount of data permitted the researchers to create an algorithm to “…predict postprandial glycemic responses based on individual features.” Once the algorithm was created and verified, they used it to create a real-life menu plan for all the people in the study. For one week, the people ate a “bad” diet that would induce high blood sugar levels after eating, and a 2nd week, they followed their individualized menu. During the “good” week, those who followed their dietary plan maintained a normal glucose levels.
Says one of the researchers, “The major contribution of this study will be to those who struggle to maintain their blood glucose levels in a normal range. This is really good information for pre-diabetics, diabetics, or those suffering from a metabolic condition…” It’s also very important for maintaining a healthy weight. Amazing stuff, really.
So a few highlights from the most recent paper:
Apropos of my post from last week on artificial sweeteners: “One example of person-specific microbiome impact on dietary physiological responses to consumed food focused on artificial sweeteners, mainly saccharin, and demonstrated that glycemic responses to these seemingly inert food supplements were driven by variations in the human microbiome. Moreover, adverse glycemic responses to saccharin could be predicted using machine learning by utilizing microbiome data collected before sweetener exposure…” It’s incredible to think that even no-cal sweeteners can cause an adverse glycemic response! You really have to wonder then: how much of our (those of us who live in the industrialized world) issues with excess weight have to do with this interaction between our food and our microbiota. So many of us struggle to maintain a healthy weight in spite of eating what we believe to be a healthy, calorie-controlled diet. How exciting is it then that we can already predict how individuals will respond to sweeteners and carbohydrates based upon their microbiome compositions: “…a subject-specific response to nonnutritive sweeteners was exhibited in humans, with the microbiomes of responders and nonresponders clustering separately. Similarly, the glycemic response to different types of bread could be reliably predicted based on microbiome features…” (I wrote about the bread response back in 2018 also.)
Another interesting point: “The gut microbiome is strongly influenced by the composition, amount, and timing of its host’s diet. Mounting evidence suggests that the timing of feeding has a predominant effect on downstream metabolic and immune functions in microbiome-dependent and -independent manners. In a given person, substantial variability was noticed when identical meals were consumed at different times of the day…” I have written before (see here) about the circadian rhythms of the gut. Again, it’s easy to imagine how learning what to eat and when from a personalized nutrition standpoint could make a massive difference in health.
In the future, these scientists are looking to expand their algorithm to also optimize intake of lipids (fats) and protein, as well as micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). They’d also like to look beyond just glucose metabolism to explore other medical conditions like cancer and inflammation. But they recognize that they have their work cut out of them. After all, they haven’t even started to take in to account the other members of the biome: “Equally elusive are the potential roles of the viral, fungal, and parasitic microbiomes in contributing to personalized human responses to food, as well as roles played by niche-specific microbiomes along the oral and gastrointestinal regions.”
Still, on the bright side, progress continues to be made. I’ll continue to monitor the work coming out of the Weizmann Institute, which really is a leader in this field. The importance of this concept really cannot be overstated. As the 2020 paper states, “…as nutrition is estimated to impact a plethora of infectious, inflammatory, neoplastic, and even neurodegenerative processes, understanding of the causative food-induced and microbiome-modulated effects induced in the human host under these contexts may enable us to rationally harness precision nutrition as part of the therapeutic arsenal in these common and often devastating human diseases.”