Why dieting doesn’t work
Steer clear of diets that have a one-size-fits-all approach, as they may not benefit you. A new study has found vast differences in people’s response to identical meals
Ahealthy food for one person may lead another to gain weight, according to a study out Thursday that suggests a one-size-fits-all approach to dieting is fundamentally wrong. For instance, one woman in the study repeatedly experienced a spike in blood sugar after eating tomatoes, which would generally be considered a low-fat, nutritious food.
The findings are based a study of 800 people in Israel, and are published in the journal Cell Press.
“The first very big surprise and striking finding that we had was the very vast variability we saw in people’s response to identical meals,” said researcher Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
Participants wore blood sugar monitors that took measurements every five minutes for an entire week.
Researchers were stunned to see the difference in people’s metabolic responses to the exact same foods.
For instance, some people’s blood sugar rose higher after eating sushi than it did after eating ice cream.
And for one middle-aged woman, the act of eating tomatoes — which she thought were part of a healthy diet — actually caused her blood sugar to rise significantly.
“There are profound differences between individuals — in some cases, individuals have opposite responses to one another — and this is really a big hole in the literature,” said Segal.
High blood sugar is dangerous because it can lead to diabetes, obesity, heart problems and other complications, including eye, kidney and nerve disease.
Many diets aim to keep blood sugar low by incorporating fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates like brown rice and whole grains, while avoiding refined sugars and goods made with white flour. But those recommendations don’t work for everyone, and often, overweight people are blamed for eating too much or not sticking to a healthy lifestyle.
Co-author Eran Elinav said the study “really enlightened us on how inaccurate we all were about one of the most basic concepts of our existence, which is what we eat and how we integrate nutrition into our daily life.”
Instead of urging people to eat low-fat diets, a more personalised approach — one that puts an individual at the center of the plan, rather than the diet — could be useful to help people control high blood sugar and improve their health, he said.
The researchers also used their findings to forge an algorithm that could predict how different people would react to certain foods, based on a host of personal characteristics and their gut.