Why there is no such thing as a healthy diet that works for everyone

Why there is no such thing as a healthy diet that works for everyone

What is good for us to eat varies(ˈverē) so much from person to person that a universally(ˌyo͞onəˈvərsəlē) wholesome(ˈhōlsəm) diet is a fiction. Instead, the science of nutrition is hot on the heels(hēl) of a new recipe(ˈresəˌpē) for healthy eating

By Graham Lawton

For about a decade, geneticist(jəˈnedəsəst) Tim Spector of King’s College London ate(āt) the same thing every day: a tuna(ˈt(y)o͞onə) and sweetcorn sandwich on brown bread(bred), followed by a banana. He thought it was a healthy choice, until he turned the microscope(ˈmīkrəˌskōp) on himself and discovered that it was about the worst possible thing he could eat. He was having huge post-lunch surges(sərj) of sugar and fat in his bloodstream, both of which are known(nōn) risk factors for diabetes(ˌdīəˈbēdēz), heart disease and obesity(ōˈbēsədē).

But just because tuna sandwiches are bad for Spector doesn’t mean they are bad for everyone. Far from it: for some people, they are super healthy. The same is true of almost any food, even things like ice cream and white bread that have long been considered universally bad news.

Recent research by Spector and others has revealed(rəˈvēl) that our response to food is highly individualised(ˌindəˈvij(o͞o)əˌlīz) and that, consequently, there is no such thing as a healthy diet that works for everybody. In fact, people respond to food in such idiosyncratic(ˌidēəsiNGˈkradik) ways that everybody needs a personalised nutrition plan. Now he and others, including the US National Institutes of Health, are seeking to deliver such plans in a healthy eating revolution that is being called “precision(prəˈsiZHən) nutrition”.

The findings could also explain why decades of one-size-fits-all dietary(ˈdīəˌterē) advice has failed to halt(hôlt) the global epidemic(ˌepəˈdemik) of obesity and diabetes and why nutrition science has consistently failed to produce a straight(strāt) answer to its most pressing question: what constitutes(ˈkänstəˌt(y)o͞ot) a healthy diet?