Microbiomes and Which Foods Make You Fat

Is rice more healthful than ice cream? Not necessarily, says new study released November 15th by the Weizmann Institute.

Microbiome mania continues.  Dr. Shlomi Madar recapped the Weizmann's Personal Nutrition Project as a major trend in diabetes right now, and the study results continue to make waves. 

Two researchers from the Weizmann Institute recently published the results of a large nutrition-based study that looked at how individuals respond differently to food, based in part, on the different microbiomes they host. The results found that there is no item of food whose effects are predictably universal for everyone, and that nutrition recommendations should be personalized.

Dr. Eran Elinav explains that following the mapping of the human genome, with microbiome technologies, “Now a new genome has been discovered, consisting of the millions of microbes that cohabit our body and affect us in a million and one ways. Of course, we’ve known about these bacteria, fungi and so forth since the invention of the microscope, but we didn’t know what to do with the information.” Dr. Elinav extrapolates that with new technologies capable of analyzing these different fungi and so forth, the major revelation is that all nutrition recommendations must be personalized to the individual’s glycemic index (GI).  

Elinav continues, “You take 10-20 people, check their blood sugar after they’ve eaten a particular food, and then calculate the average. The averages in our study match closely the known GI values. But if the differences between people are so great – as we show – we have to ask what meaning this average index has for any one specific person.

When we created personalized menus, based on the GI of each food, people’s blood sugar levels stabilized.”  Even more groundbreaking, it means that if researchers are able to profile and test your reactions to certain foods, they will be able to predict your individual response to any given food.  

How Will Microbiomes Re-Shape What We Eat?

How do we determine what products are “healthy” if what is healthy for me is not as healthy for you?  Many large companies who address a wide consumer-base have already noted this – that the future of “mass” is custom, and have started to try to profile groups not based on traditional demographic segmentation, but rather through trying to understand microbiome profiling.

If widely accepted, this new Weizmann study will have a huge impact on the way we think about health and nutrition products, and the companies that make them.  How are companies who play in the health, wellness and nutrition space respond to these findings? How will this complicate the already indeciperable field of "healthy eating" which is already crowded with mixed messages and recommendations? How will this affect our traditionally held conceptions on segmentation, marketing, and customer journey?

Microbiome continues to be a reappearing trend that cross-cuts pharmaceutical, medical, wellness, and nutrition, and this study from Weizmann indicates that we are just at the beginning stages of seeing how this will play out across the goods and products we eat. 


Written by Anna Stone

Anna Stone is the Director of Corporate Marketing at Signals Analytics, a Decision Science as a Service company, that enables global organizations to continuously experience the “aha moment” through Signals Playbook™, a cloud-based analytical intelligence platform that transforms the world’s unconnected data into actionable insights to enhance customer experience, optimize product portfolio health and propel innovation. where she relishes in the excitement and challenge of telling the story of data analytics. A New York native, Anna relocated to Tel Aviv after completing her Masters in International Business & Politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts. Her marketing and communications experience include time spent at Waggener Edstrom & The Clinton Foundation. She holds a BA in Philosophy from Dartmouth College.