True or false? Busting 9 of the biggest nutrition myths

Nutrition is an essential part of a healthy life, and something we should all have a good understanding of. But with so many nutritional trends and fads doing the rounds, thrown in with a good dose of misinformation, it’s now more confusing than ever to know what we should really be eating.

The other day I came across this article written by one of the nutritionists on Jamie Oliver’s team (who else?!) and thought I simply have to share this! 

Myth 1: A gluten-free diet is healthier

In a word, no. It’s not. Unless you have a legitimate reason to be avoiding gluten – if you have coeliac disease, for example – there is no reason to remove gluten from your diet. Due to its presence in wheat, barley and rye, gluten is present in many carbohydrate-based foods, some of which can be unhealthy (think biscuits, cakes, pies, and pastries). This may be the reason it’s gained such a reputation, but gluten itself isn’t unhealthy.

Myth 2: No sugar has a place in my diet

Sugar is sugar and, ultimately, all sugar is broken down in our bodies into glucose, which our cells use for energy. However, the difference between that teaspoon of sugar you add to your tea and the natural sugar in a piece of fruit is the presence of vitamins and minerals.

The same can be said of lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products. Although it’s still a form of sugar, lactose comes with a healthy dose of the vitamins and minerals that dairy has to offer, such as calcium.

Honey, maple syrup, and agave syrup are all still natural forms of sugar – however, they are similar to refined sugar, in that their actual nutrient content is quite poor.

Myth 3: Low fat = healthy

Low-fat products are only useful when they are helping you to reduce your intake of saturated fat, the type of fat associated with high cholesterol and heart disease risk. If you do choose these kind of products, make sure you read the label to make sure they’re free from added sugar.

Myth 4: Eating carbs will make me fat

No. Apply the same theory here as you do with fat and focus on the type of carbohydrate you are eating, rather than cutting it out completely. Starchy carbohydrates come in two forms: refined and whole. The latter are the ones to go for – higher in fibre and full of other essential vitamins and minerals. In fact, far from making you gain weight, eating high-fibre foods will help to keep you feeling full, which means you are less likely to overeat.

We need starchy carbohydrates to give us energy, and they should make up one third of our diet. Instead of cutting them out, make some smart switches and cut down on the more unhealthy carbs, like highly refined flour products.

Myth 5: Fresh produce is healthier than frozen

On the contrary – frozen foods can sometimes be healthier than fresh! As fruits and vegetables ripen, their sugar content rises and their nutrient content deteriorates. Often, fruits and vegetables are frozen quickly after harvest, which prevents all of this, and actively preserves the nutrients. Fresh fruit and vegetables are great and when eaten at their freshest and most nutritious, but using frozen instead will do you no harm. And it can also be a super-easy and reliable way of getting more veg into your cooking!

Myth 6: Coconut oil is good for me

Sadly, coconut oil is a saturated fat – the type of fat associated with high cholesterol. Recent research has suggested, however, that the type of saturated fat present in coconut oil may be metabolised differently to other saturated fats, meaning it may not have the same adverse effect on blood cholesterol and general cardiovascular health. What is missed out by eating coconut oil, though, is the essential fatty acids found in unsaturated fats. These are the fats that help to keep our cholesterol healthy, as well as the fats that our bodies generally need, so while research is showing that the saturated fatty acids in coconut oil may not be as bad as we think, we may as well be eating the fat that we know is good for us!

Myth 7: If I exercise I need to take a protein shake or supplement

It’s true that if you are exercising you need protein. Our muscles need protein to grow and repair, and if you are undertaking exercise – particularly anything of high intensity – then you do need to make sure your protein intake is sufficient.

What is more important, though, is the timing of that protein intake, which should ideally be within an hour of exercising. Your body can only metabolise a certain amount of protein at a time, so overloading on the protein shakes is completely pointless. In the UK, most of us actually get more than enough protein through our regular diets. The goal should be to limit our protein intake to shortly after exercise so that our bodies can use it to help our muscles build and repair, rather than overdoing it on the protein shakes!

Myth 8: Snacking is bad!

If understood properly, it’s also a myth that we shouldn’t snack. Eating little and often is actually much better than eating three huge meals every day. Snacking is a good way to achieve this, and also helps to prevent energy crashes between meals.

The key is what you are snacking on – and here you can utilise all that info about fats and sugars. If your 4pm-slump go-to is a slice of cake or a sugar-packed processed number then the health benefits of snacking will be lost on you. Choose wisely, and go for something dense in nutrients that will help to fill you up – think a handful of granola, a slice of apple and peanut butter, or a natural yoghurt with some fruit.

Myth 9: Vegetarian and vegan diets are healthier

A vegetarian or vegan diet being healthy completely depends on what vegetarian or vegan foods are being eaten. For example, a diet of ready-salted crisps would technically be vegan, and a diet of cheese and chocolate would technically be vegetarian, but neither could ever be called healthy!

Avoiding meat and dairy products means avoiding the saturated fat and adverse health effects that come with the over-consumption of fatty cuts of meat and high-fat dairy products. However, vegan and vegetarian diets are only healthier if you replace these foods with worthwhile alternatives. Replacing the meat and dairy in your diet with refined carbohydrates and sweets will not make the switch to vegetarianism or veganism a healthy one.

Something that is generally true of vegetarian and vegan diets, though, is that they’re very environmentally friendly, and a lot more sustainable than a meat-heavy diet. If you can get it right, or even stick to it for a day or two each week, then it really will make a difference – both for the planet and for you!

Thanks to jamieoliver.com. You can read the full article by Rozzie Batchelar here.

See also:

How does the body turn “carbs” into “sugar”?

The secret of resistant starch

Reiki: my own experience.

Is it for me?

Should I or shouldn’t I? I fancy trying it, but not sure I want to spend money on it, supposing it doesn’t work? What actually does it do? It’s all a load of pseudoscience, waving your hands around – any effects are simply placebo! These are just some of the many comments I have heard about Reiki, so in a bid to debunk the myth and shed some light onto the “mystery” of what Reiki is and how it can help, here’s an interview conducted with my former patient David after he’d completed his first course of sessions with me.

If you want to know anything at all about this treatment, how it works and how it could help you, please do get in touch, I would be more than happy to answer any of your questions.

 

I felt like I had the best nights’ sleep ever! I woke up the next morning feeling so refreshed – I can’t remember the last time I felt like that – and totally changed my mind about the whole experience…

Q. What did you know about Reiki before your session?
Very little and I was very sceptical of it as I could not understand how it could work.

Q. What prompted you to try a Reiki treatment then?
I was very stressed at work and was not sleeping well. This was having a general “knock-on” effect with my everyday wellbeing and performance at work. I was recommended the treatment to help me relax, and I was told that this would help me. My first treatment was a taster session, so I thought “why not?”. I had nothing to lose by trying it, although I was very unsure about it. I’ve never been into any of this “holistic healing” sort of stuff before.

Q. How did your initial taster session go? And what were your feelings about the treatment afterwards?
OK, Renata was very welcoming to me and did her best to calm me and make me feel at ease. In addition to feeling a little uneasy, I had a pounding headache and tired eyes, so probably wasn’t in the best frame of mind! However the treatment room was very nice and relaxing, and Renata explained what was about to happen and how she would proceed with the treatment.

I lay back on the couch, closed my eyes and tried to relax, not really sure what to expect. I was surprised that I could feel a definite warmth radiating from Renata’s hands over my head and eyes. Other than feeling more relaxed, I was also pleasantly pleased that my headache seemed to have lifted and my eyes didn’t feel so tired. But I didn’t really feel anything else during the session and I did wonder to myself whether it was worthwhile pursuing any more treatments.

At the end of the session, Renata offered me a drink and biscuit, we chatted a little while before I left for home. Overall at this point I would say I was still feeling somewhat sceptical about the whole process and thinking I would probably not go back for further treatments.

Q. So what changed your mind and made you decide to try further Reiki sessions?
That night having gone to bed pretty soon after returning from the first Reiki session, I felt like I had the best nights’ sleep ever! I woke up the next morning feeling so refreshed – I can’t remember the last time I felt like that – and totally changed my mind about the whole experience! I felt that it had completely relaxed and de-stressed me for the moment. I had a much clearer head and felt a lot calmer about things in general. I confess I was really surprised to feel this way too, I hadn’t expected to have a complete change of mind like this!

So I had a change of heart and decided to start to seeing Renata on a regular basis for a course of treatments. It was interesting because with each session the reaction seemed to be stronger, more pronounced – I felt Renata’s energy more and more around my whole body as time went on. My stress levels dropped considerably and I was sleeping so much better, in turn this had a direct effect on my overall wellbeing and an improved sense of positivity.

Today, even though I still can’t understand how it could possibly work. I just know that it does for me, and I would highly recommend her treatments.

My thanks to David for sharing his experience. I would love to help you discover how Reiki can change your life too.

Reiki – an ancient technique for modern life

I’ve been a Reiki practitioner for the past few years now, and I’m often asked how this holistic process works and what it actually is. Understandably, sometimes people can be a little apprehensive about embarking on a Reiki treatment and wonder what they are getting themselves into! Well, here I’m happy to put your mind at rest! It’s very straightforward and simple and is usually a very relaxing and calming process – no special equipment, oils or physical manipulation is required, and it’s completely non-invasive. So just relax and enjoy …

Firstly, what is it?

Reiki is a deep relaxation technique that reduces stress and promotes healing. It re-activates the body’s natural energy system, bringing you back into balance on every level – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually – putting your body in the best position to help heal itself.

Reiki is the healing energy, with the capacity to change lives in the most positive way. It is a gentle and effective system of healing which activates the body’s own natural ability to heal itself. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to become ill, experience stress or anxiety – if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.

Reiki is a simple, natural and safe method of holistic healing and self-improvement that everyone can use. It is effective in helping many conditions, and always creates a beneficial effect. It can also work in conjunction with all other medical or therapeutic techniques to relieve side effects and help promote recovery.

The work Reiki is from the Japanese – combining rei “soul, spirit” and ki “vital energy”. 

Reiki involves the “laying on” or hovering of hands on or above the body in a non-invasive manner.

So how does it work?

The ability to use Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student by the Reiki Master during an “attunement”. This transferal of the energy then allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of “life force energy” to improve one’s health and enhance the quality of life. Once attuned, students are aligned to the Reiki energy and can begin to channel it through their hands.

As students progress through different levels of learning, they will receive several additional attunements from their Reiki Master. Each student will have a different experience when receiving an attunement, usually a positive feeling of total peace and calm.

Here I am treating David, hovering my hands over his crown chakra.

The treatment itself is quite straightforward. You lie on the treatment bed, fully clothed. I will ask you to remove your footwear, but that is all. You can cover yourself with the blanket if you prefer. Now close your eyes and try to relax. I will begin the treatment by laying my hands on you in a non-invasive manner, usually beginning at the head, then working down to the shoulders, hands, legs, ankles and feet.

What will it feel like and how do I know it’s working?

You may feel warmth, or heat, or tingling from my hands. Sometimes a buzzing sensation. Other sensations may include seeing coloured lights or feeling as if you are floating. Sometimes people have an “emotional release” for a little while during the treatment. I have also had clients drop off during a treatment too – it’s so relaxing! Even my most sceptical clients have experienced warmth and heat and other sensations from my hands. After the session you will usually feel very relaxed and calm. People often say they sleep better that night too. It all depends on the person really.

The Reiki tradition was founded by Mikao Usui in the early 20th century and evolved as a result of his research, experience and dedication.

  • Experience peace of mind and inner calm
  • Help to relieve and cope with stress and anxiety
  • Bring a sense of balance, clarity and focus
  • Increase your energy levels
  • Enhance other treatments and medications
  • Develop confidence
  • Quicken the healing process
  • Let go of emotional baggage

A Reiki treatment is a process that anyone can enjoy in the normal course of their life and it can be used alongside other conventional or complementary treatments. The effects of the treatment tend to build up and gain momentum over time, usually around 4 to 6 weekly interval sessions are enough to produce a change, with an additional maintenance top-up every 4 weeks if you would like a long-term effect.

Reiki can help us cope with life by encouraging relaxation and bringing balance to both mind and emotions.

If you’d like to find out more, or discuss the Reiki process with me in more detail, please do get in touch, I’d love to help if I can!

EPOC – Metafit’s jewel in the crown

Burn fat in your sleep with Metafit! The 30-minute class that lasts 24 hours! The HIIT workout that keeps on working! These are just some of the claims that Metafit loves to make but what exactly do they mean and are they true?

I love Metafit. It’s by far my favourite workout. In under 30 minutes you can have an intense workout that burns fat, boosts metabolism and improves strength, speed and cardiovascular fitness. It is one of the quickest ways to improve your overall fitness and for beginners, if you’re committed and work hard three times a week, you can easily start to see real results within 6-8 weeks. So what is it about this short workout that makes it so successful?

The answer is simple: EPOC.

Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (also referred to as the “afterburn” effect) is an increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity. Essentially, our body uses more oxygen after exercise than before exercise, and we expend more calories during our recovery from exercise than we do before exercise, even at rest. EPOC is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal resting metabolic function called homeostasis.

Your metabolism is how your body converts the nutrients you consume in your diet to adenosine triphosphate (or ATP), the fuel your body uses for muscular activity.

Here are seven important points about EPOC and how it can help you achieve optimal levels of calorie burning from your workouts:

1. During the immediate post-exercise recovery period, oxygen is used for the following functions:

  • Production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to replace the ATP used during the workout,
  • Re-synthesis of muscle glycogen from lactate,
  • Restore oxygen levels in venous blood, skeletal muscle blood and myoglobin,
  • Work with protein for the repair of muscle tissue damaged tissue during the workout,
  • Restore body temperature to resting levels.

2. Exercise that consumes more oxygen burns more calories.

The body expends approximately five calories of energy to consume one litre of oxygen. (A calorie is the amount of energy required to heat one litre of water to 1°C). Therefore, increasing the amount of oxygen consumed both during and after a workout, can increase the amount of net calories burned.

3. Circuit training and heavy resistance training with short rest intervals = a significant EPOC effect.

Strength training with compound, multi-joint weightlifting exercises or a weightlifting circuit that alternates between upper and lower-body movements places a greater demand on the involved muscles for ATP from the anaerobic pathways. Increased need for anaerobic ATP also creates a greater demand on the aerobic system to replenish that ATP during the rest intervals and the post-exercise recovery process. Heavy training loads or shorter recovery intervals increase the demand on the anaerobic energy pathways during exercise, which yields a greater EPOC effect during the post-exercise recovery period.

4. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the most effective way to stimulate the EPOC effect.

The body is most efficient at producing ATP through aerobic metabolism, however at higher intensities when energy is needed immediately, the anaerobic pathways can provide the necessary ATP much more quickly. This is why we can only sustain high-intensity activity for a brief period of time – we simply run out of energy. HIIT works because during high-intensity exercise, ATP is produced by the anaerobic pathways – once that ATP is exhausted, it is necessary to allow it to be replenished. The rest interval or active-recovery period during an anaerobic workout allows aerobic metabolism to produce and replace ATP in the involved muscles. The oxygen deficit is the difference between the volume of oxygen consumed during exercise and the amount that would be consumed if energy demands were met through only the aerobic energy pathway.

5. EPOC is influenced by the intensity, NOT the duration of exercise.

Higher intensities require ATP from anaerobic pathways. If the ATP required to exercise at a particular intensity was not obtained aerobically, it must come from the anaerobic pathways. During EPOC, the body uses oxygen to restore muscle glycogen and rebuild muscle proteins damaged during exercise. Even after a HIIT workout is over, the body will continue to use the aerobic energy pathway to replace the ATP consumed during the workout, thus enhancing the EPOC effect.

6. Research has shown that resistance training can provide a greater EPOC effect than running at a steady speed.

One study found that when aerobic cycling, circuit weight training and heavy resistance exercise were compared, heavy resistance exercise produced the biggest EPOC.

7. The EPOC effect from a HIIT or high-intensity strength-training workout can add 6-15% of the total energy cost of the exercise session.

High-intensity workouts require more energy from the anaerobic pathways and can generate a greater EPOC effect, leading to extended post-exercise energy expenditure. Heavy weight training and HIIT workouts appear to be superior to steady-state running or lower-intensity circuit training in creating EPOC.

Watch Metafit’s Justin Corcoran (below) demonstrate the correct technique for the exercises in the May 2018 “10 Lashes” workout:

Increasing the intensity of your workouts will produce results.

It is important to remember that it is the intensity of your workout that produces the results. There is some debate about the significance of the EPOC effect for the average exercise participant because the high-intensity exercise required for EPOC can be extremely challenging. However, if you want results and are up for the challenge, increasing the intensity of your workouts by using heavier weights, shorter rest intervals or high-intensity cardio intervals may be worth the effort. While HIIT or heavy resistance training is effective and beneficial, remember to allow at least 48 hours of recovery time between high-intensity exercise sessions and try to limit yourself to no more than three strenuous workouts per week.

Thanks to the American Council on Exercise.

Metafit tips:

  • At the end of every Metafit session you should feel exhausted and be unable to hold a conversation for a minute or two.
  • If you are able to carry out a conversation during your workout you are not pushing yourself hard enough and you are unlikely to reach EPOC.
  • It’s important to get your technique right and it is better to use the regressive form of each exercise if you are struggling to maintain technique. Poor technique = less benefit and more likelihood of injury.
  • Think “slow and controlled” for your core exercises, particularly hot hands and hot knees.
  • That voice that says “I can’t do it” is the very same voice that says “I can do it!” Your mind will tell you “I can’t continue!” but if you push yourself a little further each time you will see that your body is perfectly capable of doing additional reps. Keep going no matter what – remember each interval is usually no more than 25 seconds.
  • If you are finding an exercise easy, then progress your technique by adding a jump or a tuck jump (for instance, adding a tuck jump after a burpee). Please ask me and I can show you progressions on all your exercises.
  • Metafit should never get easier – the fitter you become, the harder you can push yourself.

Super Clean Super Foods

This is my ultimate go-to nutritional guide to superfoods, telling you all you need to know to power up your plate! Keeping active and eating a super food packed balanced diet maximises your chances of achieving a healthy body. Try to build a varied diet from wholesome nutritious foods from each of these five key groups:

1. Fruit and vegetables

Try and eat at least three portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit each day. Research shows that people who eat a diet based on plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables tend to have a lower incidence of age related diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, dementia and cataracts. Fruit and vegetables contain a powerful arsenal of disease-fighting compounds including vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals. No single fruit or vegetable contains all the nutrients you need so it’s important to include a wide variety.

Citrus fruits are rich in immune boosting vitamin C.
  • Nitrates in beetroot improve the blood flow to your brain
  • Vitamins and phytochemicals in raspberries help protect your eyes
  • Tenderstem broccoli contains cancer-fighting phytochemicals
Vitamins and phytochemicals in raspberries help to protect your eyes.

2. Starchy carbohydrates

These come in many different guises and many of the carbohydrates we choose have been stripped of much of their fibre and nutrients. Refining wheat to produce white flour removes over half of the B vitamins, 90% of the vitamin E and almost all the fibre content. Choose unrefined carbohydrates such as wholegrains, beans and pulses, and aim to eat three portions of these every day.

Choose wholegrains instead of refined carbohydrates
  • A type of fibre found in barley called beta-glucan helps to reduce “bad”  cholesterol (LDL – low density lipoprotein).

3. Calcium-rich foods

Calcium is essential for building strong bones and teeth and is particularly important whilst bones are still growing. Aim for at least two portions of calcium each day – milk, yoghurt and dairy products are a good source of calcium as well as providing additional nutrients such as vitamins A and B2.

Dairy products are one of the best sources of calcium.

If you don’t eat dairy foods then try almonds, fortified soya or nut milk, sesame seeds, kale, broccoli and bak choy.

Broccoli contains phytochemicals and is also a good source of calcium.

4. Healthy proteins

Protein should ideally provide 15-20% of your calorie intake each day. Protein is an essential nutrient, responsible for multiple functions in your body, including building tissue, cells and muscle, as well as making hormones and anti-bodies. Choose healthier proteins such as oily fish, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds – in addition to the protein, they also contain other health promoting nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.

Black beans are packed with protein and gut-healthy fibre.
  • Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines are rich in omega-3 and help power your brain

5. Healthy fats

Fat is essential for your health, but most of us consume far too much of it, and the wrong sort. Eat no more than 30% of your calories each day from fat, including no more than 11% from saturated fat. Wherever possible, avoid saturated fats and trans-fats as these increase levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood. Instead opt for unsaturated fats such as olive oil and foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds and oily fish.

Avocados, oily fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds are all healthy fats.

A note about Reference Intakes (RI)

Nutritional needs vary depending on sex, size, age and activity levels so use this chart as a general guide only. The chart shows the Reference Intakes (RI) or daily amounts recommended for an average, moderately active adult to achieve a healthy, balanced diet for maintaining rather than losing or gaining weight.

The RIs for fat, saturates, sugars and salt are all maximum amounts, while those for carbs and protein are figures you should aim to meet each day. There is no RI for fibre, although health experts suggest we have 30g a day.

My thanks to Super Clean Super Foods by Fiona Hunter & Caroline Bretherton.

Why do some people put on weight? It could all be down to your gut!

When it comes to nutrition there is so much information out there that it can be easy to become bamboozled. In the last few years, food science has come on in leaps and bounds and we’re only now beginning to really fully understand how our bodies work and process food.

We all know that eating a nutritionally balanced diet is good for us. But even when sticking to a so-called good diet, some of us can still struggle to lose those stubborn pounds. To make matters worse, there are some people who are lucky enough to be able to eat pretty much what they want, and never seem to put on weight! Ah, if only! But could there be a reason why this is?

I was very excited to read the following article from the BBC TV programme “Trust me I’m a doctor”. Here is the article:

Dr Saleyha Ahsan from the BBC’s “Trust me I’m a doctor” series travelled to Israel to take part in a study, being carried out by the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot and led by Professor Eran Segal and Dr Eran Elinav. And it is producing some very exciting results!

THE STUDY

  • Recruited nearly 1000 people so far to take part;
  • Each participant has provided detailed health and medical data;
  • Participants take part in a week-long close examination;
  • This looks at how their blood sugar levels react to different foods.

During the week, participants’ blood sugar levels are measured constantly by a glucometer placed under the skin. Their sleep and activity levels are monitored by a wrist-band, and they are given an app to record their mood, feelings, sleep and exercise regimes and what they eat. Throughout the week, their meals are planned – some are given to them as standard foods that everyone tries. Others they are allowed to choose, but they have to weigh it all accurately, and record it in precise detail. Each person in the study has also given a stool sample. From this, the researchers analyse the gut bacteria living inside each person. Our gut bacteria are unique to us – it is almost like a ‘fingerprint’ of a person – but, crucially, they can change.

THE FINDINGS

The researchers at the Institute have found several startling things during their study:

1. Every person reacts differently to different foods.
This has been a real surprise, as the textbooks have long suggested that some foods (eg. white bread) give all of us a sudden blood sugar ‘spike’ (which is bad for our health – increasing our risk of Type 2 diabetes and obesity), whilst it has been thought that other foods (such as wholegrain rice) give all of us less of a ‘spike’. This has recently been called ‘high GI’ or ‘low GI’ (for foods that give people a spike or not, respectively). However, the standard group of people on whom these foods have been tested has long been 10 – and now with 1000 people’s data it is clear that everyone is very different.

2. The team have been able to make firm links between a person’s individual response to food, and to the gut bacteria that they have.
Using their huge amounts of data from the participants, the team have come up with a computer algorithm that can now take a person’s individual gut bacteria composition, and from it, predict how their blood sugar levels will react to a whole range of foods. They have done a study to test the accuracy of this algorithm, and it does indeed appear to predict ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods for different individuals based only on their gut bacteria. This goes to show how important our gut bacteria are in regulating our responses to food, and indeed for our health.

3. The team have carried out a small study in which 25 people had a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ diet predicted for each of them by the algorithm – with very encouraging results.
The participants then ate only the ‘good’ for one week and then the ‘bad’ for another – and weren’t told which was which (and because our reactions are so individual, some foods were ‘good’ for one person and ‘bad’ for another). Not only did their blood sugar react as predicted to the different foods, but the team saw changes in the gut bacteria of the volunteers over just the week. Although the roles of different groups of bacteria in our health is still very much uncertain, the changes that they saw during the week of ‘good’ food appeared to be beneficial.

This suggests that we may not only be able to personalise our diets to be healthy for each of us individually, but that we might be able to change our responses to food.

THE FUTURE

Professor Segal and Dr Elinav hope to be able to make the results of their work available to everyone, worldwide. They hope that they will in the future be able to take stool samples, sent through the post, and provide a personalised diet plan in return – listing foods which are predicted to give that person an unhealthy blood sugar spike, and those which are likely to maintain more stable, healthy blood sugar levels.

These will, of course, have to be eaten within a normally balanced diet – it doesn’t mean that if chocolate turns out to be on your ‘good food’ list, you can live on it and be healthy! Nonetheless, the fact that ‘good’ foods for particular individuals usually seem to include some that people very much like, it appears that these personalised diets are much easier for people to adopt than traditional restrictive ones.

The team are also now studying the longer-term effects of diet on gut bacteria. It is possible that as the gut bacteria change in response to the diet (which happens within days or weeks), that the diet could then be modified, or relaxed.

Exciting stuff! If you are interested in finding out more about this study, please check out the following links:

The Personalised Nutrition Project
Trust me, I’m a doctor