Chew on This

Science tackling why some gain weight and others don’t

When I was in college, I tested a theory by eating the same foods as my slimmer roommate for a few days. At the end of this impromptu trial, her weight was the same and mine had increased. I ended the experiment with the hope that someday science would begin to explain this phenomenon that so many of us have experienced. It has.

A study published last month in Cell looked at lifestyle and food intake, body measurements, continuous blood glucose levels and stool samples from 800 people. Research on what influences blood glucose levels is particularly important since elevated blood glucose is not only a marker for diabetes but also metabolic syndrome, with its associated hypertension, obesity and cardio vascular risk.

The researchers found that different people have very different blood glucose responses to the same food. They were also able to make associations between the blood glucose level after a meal and certain gut microflora. Using this information, the scientists developed an algorithm that could be used to predict a person’s glycemic response to foods.

Based on the algorithm, individualized meals plans were developed for 26 subjects. Researchers altered post-meal blood glucose levels and microbiota to a more positive profile. Since the meals plans were personalized, they differed from participant to participant but several of the changes in the gut microbiota were the same.

Researchers found that some participants were much more carbohydrate-sensitive than others. For some people, fat intake lowered post-meal blood glucose, and for others, it did not. This was for only one week, so longer term trials are needed.

This is the first step in developing tools for a more personalized food/nutrition plan. It also supports the idea that we all do not have to eat the same way for health. Looking forward to the next step.

Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.