Individualized Diet May Be Best Course for People with Diabetes

A healthy, balanced diet is good for everyone, but people with diabetes may need more than that. Getty Images

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It’s not what you eat but how your body reacts to it.

That’s the message from a group of researchers who looked at the best diets for glycemic response. The findings could be beneficial to people living with diabetes.

Research done at the Mayo Clinic concluded that an individualized diet that considers microbiome, genetics, and lifestyle is more effective at controlling blood sugar levels than a diet that only considers types of food.

The Mayo Clinic scientists found that people can respond differently to similar foods due to their gut microbiome — the groups of bacteria that exist in the digestive system.

Being able to predict how a person’s blood sugar responds after eating based on these factors could be beneficial for those living with diabetes.

“Diabetes is a big problem worldwide, and it seems that it may get worse if efficient approaches aren’t created to better control blood sugar,” Helena Mendes-Soares, PhD, a research associate and assistant professor of surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and lead author of the study, told Healthline. Some approaches exist, but they have variable efficacy.”

“A previous study used a model to predict the glycemic response of individuals to foods, but it was done in a group of Israeli participants, so it was unclear whether their initial findings could be applied to other populations with different genetic backgrounds and nutritional behaviors, for instance,” she said. “We show that the same approach can be applied to our cohort, which had some differences in relation to the Israeli cohort.”

What the research revealed

In their research, Dr. Mendes-Soares and colleagues examined 327 people for 6 days.

Genetic sequencing of the gut microbiome of each participant was possible through stool samples. Those participating in the study ate bagels with cream cheese for breakfast, then ate what they liked for the rest of the day.

They were asked to keep a diary of how much food they ate and how much exercise they had. They also wore a monitor that tracked how their blood sugar varied in response to foods eaten.

The goal of the research was to develop a model that could accurately predict how a person’s blood sugar would respond to food. The researchers accounted for age, lifestyle, and unique microbiome.

The scientists found their model was able to accurately predict glycemic response to foods 62 percent of the time. Predictions based on just carbohydrate intake were by contrast 40 percent accurate, while predictions based on calories alone were 32 percent accurate.

Although the individuals studied didn’t have diabetes, the findings could be useful for people living with the disease.

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