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Precision nutrition based on metabolic profile may increase the effectiveness of health interventions

Article-Precision nutrition based on metabolic profile may increase the effectiveness of health interventions

© iStock/dragana991 Precision nutrition based on metabolic profile may increase the effectiveness of health interventions
A personalised diet, based on metabolic phenotype, leads to better health outcomes, according to Dutch scientists.

Researchers from Maastricht UMC+ and Wageningen University and Research designed a study in which 242 participants followed a three-month nutrition programme adapted to their metabolic profile. Before and after the programme, they measured glucose and fat metabolism, as well as sensitivity to the hormone insulin – important indicators for diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk. The study did not focus on weight loss.

Participants were divided into two groups based on metabolic profile. Those who were less sensitive to the effect of insulin in the muscles appeared to benefit more from a diet that was relatively high in protein (including items such as dairy products and nuts) and dietary fibre (such as wholemeal products and vegetables), and low in fat. Those with a reduced effect of insulin in the liver benefited more from a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids (such as olive oil and nuts).

Optimal nutritional advice ‘depends on a person's metabolic type’

The research, which was backed by DSM Nutritional Products, FrieslandCampina and Danone Nutricia Research, and AMRA Medical AB, was published in Cell Metabolism.

Lead author Lydia Afman, associate professor in human nutrition and health at Wageningen University and Research, said: “Food scientists have suspected for some time that the most optimal diet can differ from person to person. Never before has a study been done with this approach, size, and to such an invasive degree.

“The research shows that variants within the general healthy dietary advice lead to further improvements in the metabolism and that the optimal nutritional advice depends on a person's metabolic type.

Weight loss ‘a key component’ of cardiometabolic health outcomes

However, critics drew attention to limitations with the study.

Dr Simon Steenson, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, told Vitafoods Insights: “From a practical point of view, the type of metabolic profiling used in this study required a seven-point oral glucose tolerance test, involving regular blood sampling across several hours. This would likely be a major barrier to scaling up or commercialising this approach compared to, for example, genetic testing to identify genetic markers.

“Another key limitation of this study is that the diets did not target weight loss, which is not only a common goal for most people adopting a new type of diet but is also a key component of interventions to improve cardiometabolic health. For example, in type 2 diabetes care, weight loss remains a cornerstone of improving outcomes for patients.

He added: “Although this study provides an interesting and very detailed investigation of how the body may process glucose differently according to different diet types, many of the measures of cardiometabolic health were not significantly different between the two groups.

© iStock/MarianVejcikPrecision nutrition based on metabolic profile may increase the effectiveness of health interventions

“For example, there was a similar amount of weight loss, and reductions in cholesterol and blood pressure (an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease), regardless of whether participants were matched to diets according to their phenotype (group B) or not (group A).

But he said the findings supported earlier research regarding weight loss.

While these findings are interesting, this remains an early-stage proof-of-concept study and so further trials are needed before any recommendations can be made for individuals based on their metabolic phenotype,” he said. “Having said that, the finding that there was a small but similar reduction in body weight (about 2-3%) for both groups, but without any significant differences between the groups, appears to support existing evidence showing that weight loss is more dependent on achieving an overall calorie deficit across the course of a day or week.