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There are large inter-individual differences between different people in their responses to food

20 Institute of Science scientists examined responses of 800 subjects to 46,000 meals * The findings emphasize the need for personal recommendations for a healthy diet

A balanced diet. Illustration: shutterstock
A balanced diet. Illustration: shutterstock

What will raise your blood sugar more: sushi or ice cream? According to a study by Weizmann Institute scientists, published today in the scientific journal Cell, the answer to this question is different for different people. In the study, the scientists continuously monitored the blood sugar levels of 800 volunteers for a week and found that the response to food is, to a large extent, personal.

The "Personal Nutrition Project" research ( was carried out by members of the research groups of Prof. Eran Segal from the Department of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics and Dr. Eran Alinev from the Department of Immunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Prof. Segal: "We focused on blood sugar because its high levels are a risk factor for diabetes, obesity and the metabolic syndrome. The huge differences we found between the increases in sugar levels in different people who ate the same meals show how individual dietary recommendations will likely help people stay healthier than universal dietary recommendations." Indeed, in the study it was found that the subjects reacted significantly differently to both simple and complex meals. For example, in many participants blood sugar levels spiked after consuming a standard dose of glucose, but in many others these levels spiked precisely after eating white bread and not glucose. Dr. Alinev: "The goal of our research was to find the factors responsible for everyone's personal sugar response to foods. We used this information to develop personal nutritional recommendations, which will help prevent or treat obesity and diabetes, which in recent years have been considered global epidemics.'

David Zaevi and Tal Korem, research students in Prof. Segal's laboratory, led the research. They collaborated with Niv Zamora, a doctor and research student in Dr. Alinev's laboratory, as well as with research student Dafna Rothschild and research associate Dr. Adina Weinberger from Prof. Segal's laboratory. The research is unique in its scope, as well as in that it included an analysis of the intestinal bacteria, which are one of the most important factors in the way our body receives and processes different foods, which also affects the development of diseases. The study participants were equipped with small monitoring devices that measured their blood sugar levels continuously. They were asked to record everything they ate as well as their lifestyle characteristics such as sleep times and exercise. This approach allowed scientists to track individual reactions to different foods. In total, the scientists followed the reactions of different people to more than 46 thousand meals.

Based on these findings, the scientists developed a computational algorithm that correctly predicted the personal reactions of the research participants to different foods. In a follow-up study, which included another 100 volunteers, the same algorithm was also able to correctly predict the rate of rise in blood sugar in response to food, which showed that it could be applied to new participants. The scientists also showed that lifestyle affects blood sugar. Among other things, they showed that the same food had a different effect on the sugar level in the same person after sleep or after exercise.

In the next phase of the study, the scientists put together a diet based on the algorithm, with the aim of checking whether personal recommendations produced by the system actually help lower blood sugar. Participants in this phase received a personal "good" diet for one week and a "bad" diet for another week. Both diets included the same number of calories and varied from person to person. Thus, certain foods that appeared in a "good" diet in one subject appeared in another subject in a "bad" diet. The "good" diets did help the subjects maintain healthy levels of blood sugar, and in contrast, the "bad" diets often caused a rapid and significant increase in these levels. Both results were recorded after an experiment of only one week. Furthermore, as a result of a "good" diet, there were uniform changes in the composition of the intestinal bacteria, which indicates that these bacteria can be affected by personal diet, and they, in turn, can affect the response to food in terms of the body's response to changes in blood sugar.

A video explaining the research

The scientists are now recruiting volunteers for a follow-up study on personalized nutrition, which will focus on people with high blood sugar who are at risk of developing diabetes. This study aims to try to prevent or delay this disease. To register on the research website (

Orli Ben-Yaakov, Dr. Lador, Dr. Tali Avnit Sagi, Dr. Maya Loten-Pompan, Elad Matot, Gal Malka, Noa Koswer, Michal Rein and Roni Bikovsky from Prof. Segal's laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science participated in the study; Yotam Suetz, Jamel Ali Mehdi, Gili Zilberman Shapira, Lenka Dohanlova and Dr. Merav Pevsner-Fisher from Dr. Alinev's laboratory at the Weizmann Institute; Dr. David Israeli from the Jerusalem Center for Mental Health; and Prof. Zamir Halpern from the Souraski Tel Aviv Medical Center.

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