Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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It’s like personalized medicine, only useful for absolutely everybody all the time

Interesting article about a newly developed algorithm that personalizes your diet based on your specific blood sugar reactions to specific foods.

By comprehensively monitoring the blood sugar, diets, and other traits of 800 people, [Eran Elinav and Eran Segal from the Weizmann Institute of Science] built an algorithm that can accurately predict how a person’s blood-sugar levels will spike after eating any given meal.

They also used these personalized predictions to develop tailored dietary plans for keeping blood sugar in check. These plans sometimes included unconventional items like chocolate and ice-cream, and were so counter-intuitive that they baffled both the participants and dieticians involved in the study. But they seemed to work when assessed in a clinical trial, and they hint at a future when individuals will get personalized dietary recommendations, rather than hewing to universal guidelines. . . .

The team found a huge amount of variation between the volunteers. The same food would cause huge sugar spikes in some people but tiny blips in others. The volunteers also differed substantially in the foods that triggered the sharpest spikes: Participant 445, for example, reacted strongly to bananas, while participant 644 spiked heavily post-cookies. . . . Zeevi and Korem showed that these personal differences were influenced by familiar factors like age and body mass index, and also less familiar ones like gut microbes.

Eight months or so of fairly casual experimentation with my own diet suggests to me that:

a) Low-carb is definitely the way to go if I want to keep my weight in an acceptable range,

b) It takes me very little time to get very, very tired of a zero-carb diet,

c) Oatmeal and legumes are more acceptable carbs for me than wheat, at least wheat flour (I’m cooking wheat berries right now and we’ll see what happens),

d) The jury is still out on rice and rice products,

e) A little sugar seems to be less awful for me than a little wheat,

f) Apples are fine, and

g) Nothing on Earth will make me quit eating dark chocolate, but luckily that seems to be okay, even in surprisingly generous amounts.

Deliberate, rigorous experimentation is a pain in the neck, though. I would welcome a chance to participate in a study of this kind, but apparently they have no trouble at all filling out their roster of volunteers with friends and relatives of earlier participants.

The connection with gut microbes strikes me as particularly interesting, given fairly strong indications that use of antibiotics can permanently alter gut bacterial communities and lead to weight gain; see for example this and this. That suggests a two-pronged (at least) approach to controlling weight gain, of course — it might well pay off to figure out ways to rebalance gut fauna after antibiotic use, as well as make this personal algorithm more broadly available.

Good to have a couple promising pathways to pursue when it comes to weight-gain issues. Faster, please.

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5 Comments It’s like personalized medicine, only useful for absolutely everybody all the time

  1. pete mack

    You mentioned Kate Elliott’s new series a while back. Court of Fives looks like a YA ‘gladiator’ games book a la Hunger Games, except given the author, I suspect it I will actually like this one. It’s entirety first person POV, about the daughter of a general who is betrayed by a high noble. In due course, she will doubtless –along with the noble’s own nephew and her family, to bring down the corrupt regime.

    Black Wolves is more ambitious: a multi -viewpoint epic fantasy trilogy with size to match: the first book was roughly 700pp. It is a sequel to the Spirit Gate trilogy, set 40cyears later. It doesn’t require reading the earlier series, but it definitely helps. Unlike many such fantasies, it moves fast. This time it’s not no-longer human immortals who have become corrupt; it’s the mortal kingdom that succeeded them, it’s ideals corrupted by queens from the Evil Empire to the south.

  2. Rachel

    Both sound good — although I really enjoyed The Hunger Games. And I will definitely read The Spirit Gate series before Black Wolves. Everyone says it’s not really necessary, but at the same time everyone seems to think it’d be a plus.

  3. mona

    Yay for g!

    I’m trying to figure out how to stabilize my diet, but so far the only thing that’s certain is the absolute irreplaceability of dark chocolate.

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