Simple blood test to lose weight

A SIMPLE blood test could be the key to help millions of Australians lose weight, as nutrition experts increasingly turn to DNA testing to tailor diets specifically for individuals.

"Personal nutrition" follows a promising international study that showed vastly different reactions to the same diet.

The general premise? Standard fitness and nutrition advice doesn't work for everyone because it's based on averages. People's genes, microbiomes, environments and lifestyles differ widely - and so should their diets and exercise habits.

Research from King's College, London and Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States supports the idea people's bodies react differently to different foods, and those reactions can inform dietary choices in a way that minimises disease risk and promotes weight loss.

"Our results surprisingly show that we are all different in our response to such a basic input as food," said lead researcher on the study and professor of genetic epidemiology at Kings College, Professor Tim Spector.

Presented at the American Society of Nutrition and the American Diabetes Association conferences, the study demonstrates how one-size-fits-all dietary guidelines are too simplistic, and a personalised approach to nutrition is likely to provide better long-term health benefits.

A personalised approach to nutrition can be determined by a blood test and provide long-term health benefits and weight loss.
A personalised approach to nutrition can be determined by a blood test and provide long-term health benefits and weight loss.

Involving more than 1000 participants from the US and UK (mostly twins), the study measured how blood levels of markers such as sugar, insulin and fat changed in response to specific meals, along with data on meal timing, sleep, gut bacteria and exercise.

The results reveal a wide variation in blood responses to the same meals, whether they contained carbohydrates or fat. Even identical twins, who share the same genes, had different responses to identical foods.

Brisbane clinical nutritionist Katie King is among those pioneering "personal nutrition" by analysing clients' blood markers, family history and medical records.

"The whole concept of personalised nutrition really marries science to diet," she said.

"At the end of the day, the food that is right for you may be very different than the food that is right for somebody else."

However, some experts have warned against "overpromising" what personal nutrition can deliver until the science is more developed.

"The consensus is that much research is needed before personalised nutrition can deliver the expected benefits," the authors - from the US, UK, Spain, Singapore and New Zealand - wrote in the British Medical Journal.

They were especially cautious about suggestions generic information could be used to recommend a specific diet.

"Randomised controlled diets are essential to providing proof of concept and to giving scientific credibility to the concept of personalised nutrition," the authors said.

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