It’s no secret that every person is unique, so it should come as no surprise that people react differently to nutrition. A diet that may work well for one person can have a different, perhaps negative, outcome on another. Scientists have found that these variations in how people process certain nutrients are linked to genetics and the unique composition of each individual’s microbiome.
One of the most common and well-known examples of a genetic-based health issue is lactose intolerance. While some people can consume dairy with no side effects, other people experience gastrointestinal discomfort. Similar issues can arise regarding how people process carbs, fats and other nutrients.
Research published in a 2015 study in the journal Cell backs up this idea. In the study, all 800 test subjects received the exact same meal, but researchers found that their glucose levels varied drastically immediately following the meal. They found a similar variance in results in both high and low glucose foods. Furthermore, the study found that personalized diets successfully lowered post-meal glucose levels.
In an effort to look and feel your best, genetic-based nutritional companies have begun to pop up with a solution. By analyzing your DNA, they’re able to target food groups that may be causing you more harm than good. With a simple swab of your cheek and/or a blood test, these companies can find out if you should stay away from carbs, lactose, saturated fats and more. You can use this information to create an ideal meal plan to fit your specific needs and make you feel your best.
One of these companies is Nutrigenomix, a start-up biotechnology company at the University of Toronto that offers a saliva test that analyzes 45 genetic markers that influence nutrient metabolism, food intolerance and more. This test can only be taken under the guidance of your healthcare professional, who will be able to explain the results and help you create a plan to fit your genetic profile.
Taking things a step further is Habit, which not only tests your DNA and provides you with a detailed report but also offers the services of registered dietitians and chefs to help you put a plan into action. In addition to a cheek swab sample, Habit also analyzes blood samples to get a more complete picture of how your body responds to nutrients. The test kit includes a shake that contains sugar, oil and milk protein isolate to represent carbs, fat and protein. By collecting blood samples before drinking the shake, as well as 30 minutes and 2 hours after consumption, they are able to test how you respond to the three macronutrients. Your results will show if your respond better to carbs, proteins and fats and you can tailor your diet to fit these needs.
Similar to the DNA testing, other companies offer a microbiome evaluation that monitors the types and amounts of bacteria in your digestive system. The human body is host to trillions of bacteria. While that thought may make you squirm, it’s important to realize that there’s a difference between good and bad bacteria and we need good bacteria to be healthy.
Microbiome diets encourage the good bacteria in our bodies to work to our advantage. By eating certain foods, we can cause this positive bacteria to digest food more efficiently, absorb more nutrients and promote weight loss. The goal is to create an ecosystem of good bacteria. An imbalanced microbiome can lead to inflammation in your digestive system when certain foods are consumed and cause cravings for unhealthy food, like sugar, while a balanced microbiome leads to healthy food choices and encourages a strong metabolism.
The first phase of a microbiome diet is to eliminate common culprits that feed bad bacteria. These items include processed foods, dairy, eggs, sugar, gluten, soy and starchy vegetables and legumes. While that list knocks out a lot of food items, there are still plenty of options. Choose non-starchy vegetables and fruits, meat proteins and especially fermented foods, like pickles and kombucha, which contain good bacteria. Coffee, beer and wine are also allowed.
Day Two is a popular microbiome diet company. After analyzing both stool and blood samples, they are able to discover your unique microbiome DNA and provide you with personalized nutrition advice via their app. Their recommendations specifically target foods that can regulate your blood sugar levels.
Another microbiome company, Viome, analyzes a stool sample to test the health of your digestive system and recommend nutrition and lifestyle changes to match your unique microbiome. Their goal is maximize your well-being through diet and wellness and discover which foods you can indulge in without worry and which you should avoid. You can even track your progress over time using the app.
Of course, analyzing your genes and discovering your microbiome composition comes at a cost and each of these personalized diet programs has a fee. It’s up to you to decide if your health and wellness is worth the cost of discovering your personal ideal diet.