Science shows that even twins have vastly different microbiomes that determine how food impacts their blood sugar.
If you’re like most Americans, you’ve tried a few fad diets. You may have even hopped onto the latest trend in nutrition after being inspired by someone else’s “amazing” results. But then you found that your body doesn’t react the same way even though you followed the diet plan religiously.
Evidence suggests our digestive systems are so unique that even identical twins see very different results on the exact same meal plan. One sister might lose weight easily while the other gains weight while eating the same way. Why? Because we are all unique. When it comes to our health, exercise and nutrition, we need to employ a precision approach that evaluates our bodies closely, even at the cellular level.
Why One-Size-Fits-All Nutrition Doesn’t Work
For decades, the U.S, Federal Dietary Guidelines has been our roadmap for a healthy diet. They tell us which foods to consume to meet nutrient requirements, prevent disease, and promote overall health. The Dietary Guidelines are based on “scientific evidence on health-promoting diets in people who represent the general U.S. population, including those who are healthy, those at risk for diet-related diseases, and those living with these diseases,” according to the USDA. But that statement highlights the flaw in the Guidelines: They apply to everyone, even those who are healthy or ill, those who may be sensitive to carbohydrates or not, or anyone who may have a different makeup of microbes in their gut. (By the way, that’s any one of us.) For the same reason, most trendy diets fail to work for most people because they don’t take into consideration everyone’s uniqueness.
Our approach to health and nutrition at the Comite Center for Precision Medicine & Health is quite different. We examine every person as a single case study, an “N=1” clinical trial. One person. One unique physiology. We pioneered this approach and practiced it in our clinics for more than 20 years. And now others are catching on. In recent years, studies have shown that personalized nutrition is more important for optimal health than previously thought. In 2015, Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science conducted one of the first studies to gain widespread attention on precision nutrition. This study, which involved 800 adults, investigated how the exact same meals would impact each of the participants’ blood sugar levels.
General Guidelines are Too General
Since blood sugar after eating may indicate risk of heart disease and diabetes, understanding how foods impact blood sugar is key to preventing disease. Each person wore a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), a device that measures subcutaneous glucose every 5 minutes. After 7 days, the scientists found a vast difference in the blood sugar response of different people to identical meals. “As soon as we saw this data, we realized that the general dietary guidelines given to the entire population may have limited efficacy,” said researcher Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute.
What caused the wide difference in glucose response to the same food? The researchers believe it’s due to differences in participants’ body weight, medical history, exercise habits, and microbiomes. All those factors were measured in the study, including an analysis of gut flora through a stool sample. Using those data points, the researchers predicted the personalized blood glucose response of people to arbitrary meals. “The highlight of this study is the need for personalized nutrition,” said Segal. (Find a video describing how food impacts blood sugar and the results of this study in the scientific paper published in the journal Cell.)
In a more recent study from 2019, researchers found that even identical twins – who share almost the exact same DNA – can respond differently to the same food. The study spanned two weeks, tracking over 1,000 participants, including 240 sets of twins. Subjects ate pre-formulated meals while researchers tracked their insulin, blood sugar, fat levels, sleep, exercise, and gut microbes. Results showed that meals that elevated one person’s fat or blood sugar didn’t do the same for other people. Although scientists don’t agree why similar foods produce different reactions, many believe our biomarkers and the microbiome hold the key.
We Need Personalized Nutrition and Precision Medicine
This research demonstrates that the factors we pin on weight gain, such as calorie and carb counts, aren’t the only elements that impact our weight. Our individual biologies play an enormous role in how food affects our health even if we are identical twins. In fact, identical twins only have a 37% similarity in gut microbes. Unrelated people share about a 35% similarity, according to the American Society of Nutrition. It’s clear that we need personalized nutrition to maintain a healthy weight and experience optimal nutrient absorption.
While personalized nutrition is becoming more popular, it’s rarely practiced by physicians. The Comite Center is at the forefront of customized nutrition and precision health analysis to prevent the diseases associated aging. Call us to schedule a visit or check out our new Precision Medicine app, Groq Health and join the waitlist today.