There Is No One-Diet-Fits-All
A recent Israeli study suggests that two people can follow the same diet and only one will end up losing weight because individually we respond to the foods on a particular diet quite differently. Do you want to try that new trending diet your co-worker is on, or the new diet your friend has been following? Even if they are experiencing weight loss, don’t assume you will get the same results because we all respond to diets differently.
As you move into this New Year and make some new dietary resolutions, consider your diet choices carefully. If there’s a new diet trending, or a program supported by a celebrity or even by good science, or if your friend has lost significant weight on a specific diet, you need to consider that there’s no single diet that fits everyone. Depending on your genetics, health profile, and even personality – not everyone will lose similar amounts of weight if they follow the same diet.
If you look at diets like Atkin’s, the Zone, South Beach and look at the common core among these diets, it’s the recommendation that the dieter avoid high glycemic foods. Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale that ranks foods based on how quickly and how high they cause blood sugar to rise. This scale was originally created to help patients diagnosed with diabetes to avoid foods that would cause rapid blood sugar spikes. Overall, these diets are based on the theory that if you regularly eat foods that have a low GI like lean meats, most vegetables, and fish, then you will be more likely to have stable blood sugar levels and also lose weight more efficiently.
The researchers found that though the principal makes sense, and is based on findings that averaged the blood sugar impact of foods on test subjects, it simply doesn’t work when you put it to the test, because of individualized variables. In the study, Israeli researchers recruited 800 adults and then collected baseline data through questionnaires, body measurements, blood tests, glucose monitoring, stool assays, and a mobile app that the subjects used to keep a diary of lifestyle choices and food intake for a total of 46,898 meals. The subjects were also counseled to follow similar menu plans.
As expected, age and body weight certainly impacted blood sugar levels after meals (when glucose monitoring was done). Beyond that finding, subjects also responded quite differently to the same foods. For example, one woman who had tried many diets over the years responded to consumption of tomatoes, considered “healthy” on the GI, with rather significant blood sugar spikes. She was an example of the many individuals who react to foods differently, regardless of their glycemic index. The Israeli researchers also suggested that sometimes food combinations or meal-types (high fat, high protein) also influenced the variable responses on blood sugar levels. Researchers also found that when they fed a single individual two standardized meals with similar glycemic index values, the response in the same individual could be quite different to each of the meals.
A second study was devised with 26 of the original participants to see if personalized nutrition recommendations could be created, that would lower blood sugar response. Meal plans were constructed to include foods specifically identified to not drastically raise the blood sugar of each individual person. The result was that all the subjects on these personalized plans did have lower blood sugar levels after eating from these personalized menus.
The researchers also noted gut microbe changes after the subjects followed their customized diets for a while. The shift in the gut microbe populations were positive shifts. Having certain high gut microbe populations can dictate higher risk for certain diseases like obesity.
It should be noted that one drawback of the study was the reliance on self-reported lifestyle and diet information. The results of the study may also be very difficult to put into practice because it would require considerable financial and time commitments to explore the perfect diet for every single individual. As the researchers point out, genetics, environment, overall nutrition, overall health, the order that we eat foods, and current microbe populations in our gut all influence how each of us responds to food(s).
One thing you can do is to seek the help of a dietician or nutritionist to create an eating program that includes a broad range of mostly healthy foods from all six food groups. You can then try to individually track how specific foods or meals with combinations of foods impact your energy level, cravings, and blood sugar levels.
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