An increase in cardiometabolic disorders, such as cardiovascular disease, is shining a spotlight on diet. Risk factors for cardiometabolic disorders include hypertension, elevated fasting blood sugar and abdominal obesity, all of which can be impacted by lifestyle choices.
A well-known strategy to improve cardiometabolic health is healthy nutrition, even in the absence of weight loss. However, dietary interventions do not lead to clinically relevant improvements for everyone.
Personalised – or precision – nutrition based on individual traits, however, is thought to increase the effectiveness of dietary interventions to improve metabolic health. Researchers from Maastricht UMC+ and Wageningen University & Research, in collaboration with other academic institutions and industry players, have sought to validate this hypothesis.
Assessing metabolic profiles
In a study published in journal ‘Cell Metabolism’, the researchers outline a three-month nutritional programme developed in accordance with participants’ metabolic profile. The recommended diet for all 242 participants complied with the Dutch Health Council’s guidelines for a healthy diet.
Being focused on cardiometabolic health, rather than on body weight and weight loss, the researchers measured participants’ glucose and fat metabolism and sensitivity to the hormone insulin – both before and after the three-month programme. These are considered important indicators of the risk of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Based on these measurements, which suggests a particular metabolic profile, the participants were divided into two groups. Because the functioning of the metabolism differs per person, the classification indicates how efficient insulin does its job in the liver and muscles. When insulin is less efficient, the cells in the body are less able – or not able to at all – control the sugar level in the blood. This can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Personalised nutrition plans
Participants within the two groups then received a nutrition programme based on a lottery.
The researchers observed that participants who were less sensitive to the effect of insulin in the muscles appeared to benefit more from a diet relatively high in protein, for example with higher quantities of dairy products and nuts, as well as dietary fibre, as can be found in wholemeal products and vegetables. These same participants also benefit from diets low in fat.
For the first time, clinically relevant improvements in cardiometabolic health after following personalised nutrition plans was demonstrated. With targeted interventions, the researchers believe the participants – who were overweight and presented with metabolic disturbances, but no cardiometabolic disorders – can improve the properties of their metabolism and thus reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
“Let’s look at diabetes, for example: one of the most common chronic diseases,” said MUMC+ professor of human biology Ellen Blaak, who headed up the research. “About 1.2m Dutch people have it and about 1,000 diagnoses are added every week.
“There is therefore a great need for preventative interventions that have proven to improve people’s health and reduce the risk of diabetes and other chronic diseases.”
Paving the way for ‘person-specific’ interventions
The findings indicate that when looking to improve cardiometabolic health, precision nutrition based on metabolic phenotype may be superior to a one-size-fits-all diet based on general guidelines.
Indeed, Blaak suggested the research paves the way for more ‘person-specific’ interventions.
“This is the first study to show that adjusting nutrition to someone’s metabolic type leads to more improvements in health than when general nutritional advice is followed,” said the lead researcher. “These metabolic types can be determined based on a simple sugar test. This offers prospects for practical application in the foreseeable future.”
In follow-up research, the team wans to determine more type of metabolic properties and conduct research into how they can be influenced with nutritional and lifestyle interventions, Blaak revealed.
“The tests that measure these properties will also have to be further developed. Possibly even down to a simple diagnostic or self-test.”
Source: Cell Metabolism
‘Cardiometabolic health improvements upon dietary intervention are driven by tissue-specific insulin resistance phenotype: A precision nutrition trial’
Published 3 January 2023
Authors: Inez Trouwborst, Anouk Gijbels, Kelly Jardon, Ellen Blaak et al.
Keen to hear more about personalised nutrition and its potential to improve public health? Come join us at our upcoming face-to-face event in London Positive Nutrition 2023: Healthy Food for the Mass Market.
Over the course of three days (29-31 March), FoodNavigator journalists will be joined by a host of experts from dieticians and nutritional scientists to food entrepreneurs and big brands to examine how the latest nutritional science and technology can meet evolving consumer demands.