It’s a breakthrough in diagnosing dietary strengths and weaknesses that could lead to precision eating prescriptions for every patient, aimed at optimizing their individual diets – which, in turn, could make it possible to optimize everyone’s unique health profile. My question is: Would the average person follow the advice?
A family portrait of the much-lauded Mediterranean Diet: But how does each
person’s unique body use the nutrients this eating regime provides?
Think of it… Imagine how much better life could be if we all felt better all the time just because we knew what to eat and what to avoid. Imagine how dramatically that could reduce currently mammoth cost of health care. Imagine what we could do with all the money we saved on health care to fight global warming, establish food security for the millions in the world who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and just generally prepare the world for the massive changes in our lives coming in the next few decades…
What it is
Researchers at Imperial College London, Northwestern University and the University of Illinois (US), and Murdoch University (Australia) have concluded mass testing on a new 5-minute urine test that produces a custom profile for every subject listing levels of 46 dietary metabolites. From those results, doctors could tell what subjects are getting enough or not enough of in their diets, allowing physicians to make specific eating recommendations for every patient.
Dr. Joram Posma, Lead Author of the study report explains: “Diet is a key contributor to human health and disease, though it is notoriously difficult to measure accurately because it relies on an individual’s ability to recall what and how much they ate. For instance, asking people to track their diets through apps or diaries can often lead to inaccurate reports about what they really eat. This research reveals this technology can help provide in-depth information on the quality of a person’s diet, and whether it is the right type of diet for their individual biological make-up.”
The test is the result of a developmental program that identified 46 specific metabolites – or products of the digestion process – associated with a number of key foods. Knowing how an individual digests those foods and how their body uses the resulting nutrients may help improve understanding of how our diets affect health.
What they did
Researchers wanted to develop a test that would produce what they call a urine ‘fingerprint’ which can be used to develop an individual’s personal score they call the Dietary Metabotype Score, or DMS.
According to an abstract of the study report: “[T]he team asked [study subjects] to follow four different diets – ranging from very healthy (following 100 per cent of World Health Organisation recommendations for a balanced diet), to unhealthy (following 25 per cent WHO diet recommendations).”
What they found
Contrary to the team’s initial expectations, they found that people who strictly followed either diet had varied DMS scores, underlining the many ways it’s possible for peoples’ individual systems can find to use the nutrients they consume.
However, the team’s work also revealed that the higher a person’s DMS score was, the healthier their diet was. A higher DMS score was also found to be associated with lower blood sugar, and a higher amount of energy excreted from the body in urine. This, in turn, could lead to the development of new tests for early identification of patients at greater risk for cardiovascular disease and other associated afflictions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. And that’s just one example.
Professor Gary Frost, a Co-Author of the study report observes: “These findings bring a new and more in-depth understanding to how our bodies process and use food at the molecular level. The research brings into question whether we should re-write food tables to incorporate these new metabolites that have biological effects in the body.”
It’s important to note that this particular revelation means that dietary guidelines such as Canada’s Food Guide (See image, top of page) may not be ‘one size fits all’, after all.
Sounds great! And I will allow that the description of this new test as a breakthrough is probably justified. It will be interesting to see how the work is ploughshared into other specific applications such as the aforementioned test for cardio disease risk. More important, though, I’m waiting for the day when I get this test and my doctor can tell me exactly to eat and what avoid!
But I wonder how many other folks, given the chance to optimize their diets and their overall heath, would follow the advice? After all, current COVID-19 news shows multitudes of people in the U.S. given the chance to take advantage of a limited re-opening of bars, beaches and other venues have ignored the best advice – even regulatory requirements – to observe social distancing and masking rules. The result has been a massive spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations far in excess of initial infection levels over the past past four months. As I’ve often observed: You can pass all the laws you want, but you can’t legislate common sense…
~ Maggie J.