While I think it’s possible to give nutrition advice that can be applied broadly to a population, there is no doubt in my mind that fine-tuning is required for those who are seeking to consume something close to their ideal diet. That’s because, are nutritional needs differ. Physiological studies show, for instance, that some individuals are efficient metabolisers or fat, while others are more inclined to ‘burn’ carbohydrate. This concept is fully explored in my book The True You Diet.
The concepts of biochemical individuality and ‘metabolic type’ have until now remained a relatively fringe field. Some might argue that general healthy eating message are hardly getting through, and the last thing we want to do is complicate matters by telling people that optimal dietary advice is not the same for everyone.
However, a little sign that the idea of individualised nutrition might slip into the mainstream emerged today on the announcement of a study that came from Nestlé’s Research Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The study, due to be published next month in the journal Proteome Research, involved 22 men, half of whom confessed to being ‘chocolate-desiring’ while the other half classified themselves as ‘chocolate indifferent’. The relevance of this to metabolic typing is that studies show that one’s innate metabolism does seem to dictate the foods an individual gravitates towards. It is possible, therefore that one’s food preferences may relate to physiological and biochemical idiosyncracies.
I have not bee able to see any details of the Nestlé study, but apparently it’s participants were fed chocolate or placebo (I assume something that looked and tasted like chocolate, but wasn’t) over a 5-day period. It has been reported that the chocolate lovers were found to have generally lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and higher levels of the blood protein albumin.
The significance of these specific findings is not clear to me. But what is interesting, I think, is that a food company is taking an interest in the idea of biochemical individuality. According to one of the researchers involved in this study, Sunil Kocchar: Our study shows that food preferences, including chocolate, might be programmed or imprinted into our metabolic system in such a way that the body becomes attuned to a particular diet”. In addition, he is quoted as saying: “Knowing one’s metabolic profile could open the door to dietary or nutritional interventions that are customised to you type so that your metabolism can be nudged into a healthier status.”
While we might be cynical about the motives behind this research, the fact that this much-neglected field of nutrition is getting some attention is a good thing, I think. My hope is that it will lead to a growing awareness of the concept of biochemical individuality and help individuals discover their specific nutritional needs.
In the meantime, can I suggest that those of us who like chocolate stick mainly to plain varieties rich in cocoa solids. Cocoa has been linked in recent times with some benefits for health. Also, many individuals find that consuming moderate amounts of dark chocolate is relatively easy, while starting on some milk or white chocolates increases the risk of a bit of chocolate bingeing.