Mediterranean, keto, paleo, low carb ... there are plenty of diets to try, but which one is the best? According to a new study by King's College London, it depends on who is asking, because there is no single approach to healthy eating.
People respond to food in such different ways that everybody should have a personalised meal plan. The college's research aimed to examine the effects of genetics, as well as the microbiome and lifestyle factors on metabolism. In other words - what constitutes a healthy diet for one person can actually be harmful to another.
What Is the Best Diet For Me?
The study found that the perfect diet does not exist. For two weeks, the scientists gave 1,102 healthy people identical meals and measured their metabolic responses. The researchers examined the differences in people's blood glucose (sugar), insulin and triglyceride (fat) levels. High levels of blood sugar and fat can lead to inflammation, which is linked to an increased risk of weight gain, diabetes and heart disease.
There were wide variations in people's response to identical meals, with some results varying tenfold. Some people experienced rapid and prolonged increase in blood sugar and insulin levels, which is associated with a risk of weight gain and diabetes, while others saw an increase of fat in their blood, associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Furthermore, this study included identical twins who also responded in very different ways to the same meals. This suggests that genes do not play as big a role as originally thought. This is good news - if your genes played a bigger role, you would have less control over your response to food and, ultimately, your risk of disease.
Sleep, Exercise and Intestinal Health
The researchers also tracked the volunteers' sleep, exercise and hunger levels over the two weeks.
Turns out, it was these factors that played the biggest role in determining how healthy a diet is for an individual. Meal times were also an important factor, as some people had a better metabolism with food for breakfast, but for others, the time of day did not matter.
This does not mean that you should abandon all fruits and vegetables and succumb to a diet of junk food and soft drinks (the harmful effects of which have already been demonstrated in nutritional research) - by taking a more personalised approach to our diet, we will be healthier for longer.
What is really exciting about this research is that we have control over factors like sleep, intestinal diversity, exercise, and meal times. By paying attention to these aspects of our daily lives, we can make positive changes to decrease our risk of weight gain, diabetes and heart disease.
So, could the results of this study change the way we approach healthy eating going forward? While this study and the results are really impressive, personalised nutrition is still a relatively new concept and more research is needed.