Why you do NOT need personalized nutrition to lose weight

Skärmavbild 2015-11-28 kl. 09.15.44

Do you need a personalized nutrition plan to lose weight? Do you need your DNA, microbiome and blood sugar responses analyzed and a computer algorithm to tell you what to eat?

That’s what some people are believing, after a kind-of-interesting new study:

TIME: Why Losing Weight Is So Hard for Some People

However, while personalized diets may be of some use they are not necessary to maintain a perfect weight. We know that for certain. Why?

Before the modern food environment there was no obesity epidemic. People did not have computer-assisted personalized diets and still they had no obesity epidemic.

And look at any species of wild animal eating real food. They maintain their weight just fine without even knowing what DNA is.

There are definitely genetic differences between people. Some have an easier time gaining weight than others. Some have to watch what they eat more carefully. But there’s no strict need for personalized nutrition.

Just make sure to eat what the human species evolved to eat. This does not include any added sugar, finely ground flour or processed junk food. None. And it most certainly did not involve preparing meals every three hours.

No living thing in its normal environment has ever needed a computer algorithm to tell it what to eat.


How to Lose Weight


  1. Apicius
    Dr Eenfeldt, I do see your point of how it is unnecessary to go overboard with the analysis, computer models, in-depth DNA evaluation, and so on. It does seem like there is potential to extort money from people to sell advice which may not be significantly helpful.

    The examples you provided of animals staying at a healthy weight in the wild is closely associated to the fact that the species evolved in that environment and has very few choices available for food sources. It's not like a leopard in the wild will suddenly come across a asian-american fusion restaurant.

    I think there is a middle ground. Not going overboard with analysis paralysis (and wasting your money on questionable testing), but at the same time, trying to understand what your ancestry ate (what food environment did they emerge from) so that your meals can reflect that reality. If they would not be able to recognize the food, then don't eat it, or keep it at a minimum in your diet. Would my great great great great grandmother recognize a pumpkin spice latte quinoa granola bar with cranberry speckled yogurt icing? No. So, perhaps I shouldn't be eating that. Would my great great great great grandmother recognize a pork chop, fried in butter, with a side of arugula tossed in olive oil? Yes. So, that's what I'm going to eat instead.

  2. Bob Niland
    This may also be about this recent, quite interesting, but by far not definitive trial:
    It's being chewed on all over the nutrition blogosphere this week.

    Decades from now the ideal diet may well be personalized based on genotype, phenotype, goals (longevity, vitality, performance), incep status (multiple factors, including microbiome), epigenetic factors (some perhaps alterable), age, gender, geographic location, lifestyle preferences, and doubtless other factors to be named later.

    In the meantime, what's for lunch?

    LCHF, with attention to a number of other issues, works for very nearly everyone, and is a great deal less effort than continuous real-time BG monitoring.

  3. Pierre
    This is a predictor of what of you should eat to reduce your insulin response to the minimum.

    After the diet has been adapted, your body homeostasis will adjust to the new diet and the insulin response wont be the same.

    In the long term, grosso modo people should have the same insulin response with the same diet.

    It is like : "all the roads lead to rome"

    There is no need to analyse your DNA, just eat good food like people used to do.

    Reply: #4
  4. Bob Niland
    re: There is no need to analyse your DNA…

    There is benefit to be had on that score, even on an ancestral diet, due to things like ApoE.

    For anyone eating modern foods, knowing what kind of folates suit you (MTHFR) is important.

    There are more. Take full advantage of what little is so far known.

    But sure, anyone still eating full-time moderate to high glycemic, loaded with adverse modern food-like substances, yet getting their 23andme raw data analyzed to death, and expecting that some minor resulting diet tweaks will bestow optimal health and longevity, has their priorities upside down.

    Reply: #9
  5. Valerie
    Your argument rests on the idea that the modern food environment is responsible for obesity (in everyone, everywhere, all the time). That is just plain false. Obesity can and does exist without junk food / sugar / hyper-palatable foods / over-available foods / scapegoat-du-jour.

    So, for people who would be obese even if they were thrown back a century ago (or a few millenia), how can eating ancestral foods be the solution?

    BTW, I did notice that you talk about the obesity *epidemic* at the beginning of the article. Which I guess is meant to avoid the kind of criticism I am giving you here. Yet your advice at the end of the article does not offer the same kind of caveat. I wish you were more humble and recognized that your diet advice does not work for everyone. You do not have it all figured out (no one does).

    Reply: #10
  6. KevinO
    Oh my. That Zeevi et al research (referred to above) -
    cohort of 800 people
    followed for 1 week
    = 5600 person days, no?
    46,898 meals!
    The paper says the median was 54 meals (I make 46898/800=56, but...), so
    an average of about 8 meals per person per day...
    They say it was about 10,000,000 calories...
    divide by 46,898 and we get 213 kcal/meal...
    I think the whole lot ate nothing but gigot (GIGO?) d'agneau for each meal!
    Not sure which is worse, this one or the Yanping et al study that just came out from Harvard...
    Highest fat intake quintile: 1420 CHD cases
    Lowest fat intake quintile: 1671 CHD cases
    Highest SFA intake quintile: 1434 CHD cases
    Lowest SFA intake quintile: 1599 CHD cases
    Highest CHO intake quintile: 1717 CHD cases
    Lowest CHO intake quintile: 1378 CHD cases
    BUT, after statistical 'adjustment' the conclusion was that this all provides support for the current dietary guidelines...
  7. Martin Levac
    I agree, Dr Eenfeldt. Scientific experiments can tell us a whole lot, but they are absolutely not required to achieve good health. On the other hand, we live in a world where we believe some stuff is food - therefore should be good for us - but in fact it's not food, and that's where it would be useful to experiment to find out. Then there's tolerance vs adaptation. That experiment isn't one where they tried to find out what food was, instead it's one where they tried to find out who can tolerate what. From this, we can't jump to the conclusion that the stuff we tolerate is food. We merely tolerate it. It's possible some tolerance is due to adaptation like for lactose for example, but this adaptation does not, did not necessarily come with another adaptation - that the thing we tolerate also feeds us, just like food does.

    Not everything we eat is food, ya?

  8. Eric
    CRISPR gene edits should fix any problems when they become cheap and widely available until then HFLC with periodic fasting seems prudent for most if not almost all humans


    Reply: #14
  9. Pierre

    re: There is no need to analyse your DNA…
    There is benefit to be had on that score, even on an ancestral diet, due to things like ApoE.
    For anyone eating modern foods, knowing what kind of folates suit you (MTHFR) is important.

    If there is health issues in your family tree, then It might be a good idea.

    You can see your DNA as a chain with some weak links, if you don't solicit them beyond their internal strength then there is no problem. The chain wont brake.

    So you can have someone who has a optimal DNA "strong chain", but a very bad way of life that overload regularly his "chain" .

    In the end, the chain finally breaks while the weak chain does not break because it was not overload.

  10. Pierre

    Your argument rests on the idea that the modern food environment is responsible for obesity (in everyone, everywhere, all the time). That is just plain false. Obesity can and does exist without junk food / sugar / hyper-palatable foods / over-available foods / scapegoat-du-jour

    LCHF diet works if follow the diet and you do not consume flour, beans, starchy and sugary foods.

    It fails if you don't.

    Reply: #11
  11. Valerie
    The fat-free vegan gurus say the same thing: it works if you stick to it. If it doesn't work, it's because you are cheating / doing it wrong. Too bad low-carbers decry the low-fat dogma yet are so blind to their own dogmas.

    I am one those folks who have tried LCHF without any result at all. Not only did I not lose an ounce on LCHF (I even gained weight on a zero-carb stint -- fat is definitely not satiating for me), but my hypertension also refused to budge. I was expecting my blood pressure to come down, since hypertension is said to linked to insulin resistance, and LCHF is supposed to be great for that, but, alas, nothing happened.

    Christopher Gardner's work shows I am far from being special: LCHF works only for a subset of obese people.

    Replies: #15, #18
  12. Jess
    I think it is very important to realise that just as some people function incredibly well on LCHF, others function well on higher amount of carbs. My husband and I and our children are a classic example of this. I thrive on low carb and start gaining weight and struggling with blood sugar problems as soon as I exceed 50-60g carbs a day ( only from veg, dairy, nuts, fruit). My youngest son is the same as me and has thrived on low carb- he experiences very definite sugar lows and cravings when he eats carbohydrate rich meals.

    My husband and our other son are just different. Both are naturally very thin and eat high fat and high carb and thrive that way. I have found on low carb- even with a lot of good fat, my husband feels weak and tired. My son fares much worse- he has had dangerously low blood glucose levels when eating low carb (and again- eating high fat), he has hypoglycemia induced migraines, complete with vomiting and nose bleeds, night terrors (also triggered by low BG). It is not a case of "adjusting" as he was eating low carb for a month before we realised that was what caused his problems.

    So yes, people don't ever need refined flours and sugars. But sweet potatoes, butternut, potato, wild rice, bananas, raw honey, higher carb nuts and fruits, raisins- these are essential for them. My husband usually hits around 250g carbs a day- has incredible health markers, and is an accomplished long distance runner. My older son is able to learn and run and enjoy life without migraines. They see fundamentally differently wired than my younger son and I.

    Gut microbes, the enzymes involved in digestion, your liver's response to sugar, your insulin sensitivity, your body's fatty acid metabolism pathways etc- these differ fundamentally among a population. Even Prof Tim Noakes has said there are people who thrive on a high carb diet.

    I so admire your site and your work but it is off-putting when you promote your beliefs so much that you are unopen to any other possiblities.

  13. 1 comment removed
  14. Bob Niland
    re: CRISPR gene edits should fix any problems when they become cheap and widely available…

    The human race will need to count itself very lucky indeed if it survives the invention of CRISPR gene edits.

  15. Pierre
    May be you still eat to much carbs.

    "We follow this simple rule: Never exceed 15 grams net carbohydrates per meal or per 6-hour (digestive) period. We calculate net carbs by the following simple equation:
    Sticking to this rule is important. Say you eat a ripe medium-sized (7-inch length) banana with 27 total carbs and 3 grams fiber:
    27 – 4 = 24 grams net carbs
    By exceeding your 15 gram net carb cutoff, this one banana will turn off your ability to lose weight for that entire day, as well as delay any hope of reversing high blood sugars and insulin resistance."


  16. Eric
    Are you afraid of uber geno types?
    Why not more optimal health and brains
    Just what genetic disease must we have? Type 1 diabetes
    CF? Alzhiemers?

    Double null myostatin offers better health and muscles is just one example

    Reply: #17
  17. Bob Niland
    re: WHY?

    I presume that's in reference to my CRISPR caution. "Why" is about:
    ☹ unintended consequences by well-intentioned developers
    ☠ policy disasters
    ☣ weaponisation (about which the less said…)

    We already have mandatory vaccinations in many places. I expect it won't long before this policy is extended beyond contagious diseases to supporting healthcare cost containment, even for things trivially avoiding by ignoring official diets, like metsyn☞T2DM. The possibilities for mandatory admin of genetic treatments loom ominously.

    One to watch (not a CRISPR) is the PCSK9 inhibitor vaccine now in development. It might become mandatory, even if based on failed lipid dogma, unsupported by net beneficial outcomes and ultimately delivering crushing side effects.

  18. Martin Levac
    You have a point. If any diet works _only_ because we stick to it, then all diets should work equally well if we stick equally well to it, yes? Does that Chris Gardner experiment - the A-TO-Z study - show that? No, it does not. It shows that not all diets work equally well for any given randomized group. All groups did fairly equally well for adherence, but especially for completion with about 80% completion rate. Based on that experiment, there's no reason to think that sticking to it is the only factor for success. That argument is moot and quite frankly nobody uses it in the LCHF forums. However, often we dig deeper only to find out the thing they thought was LC, isn't actually LC. We can summarize this as "Did you read the book?". Chris Gardner even mentioned that some subjects in his experiment said something like "I thought I'd read the book, but when the dietician read it to me, I realized I missed a bunch of stuff". Well, is there any reason to think this only applies to LC? So is this about dogma or just good ole pilot error?

    About your personal experience. If you're trying to extrapolate to the group, it won't work. In fact, the Chris Gardner A-TO-Z experiment you cited shows the LCHF group did best in all things measured. It's the _group_ that did better. Not all individuals got exactly the same results. Some did better than others within each group, while some in the best group did worse than others in other groups. It's a bunch of "nobody special", yet in spite of nobody being special in any group, one group still did better than all other groups. So is this a matter of being special? No, it's not. It's a matter of the diets being tested. Actually, that experiment can't tell us if there's anybody special, or who's special or not, or why. All it can tell us about that is that it's possible. In fact, that's pretty much what Chris Gardner said about it, the differences he noted about insulin sensitivity.

  19. Jesse
    My wife and I did LCHF for 10 months last year. I dropped 70 lbs and she dropped 8. Just 8 lbs in 10 months. And 6 of it was in the first week. So you can imagine how frustrated she was. We were eating almost the exact same things. The only difference was our indulgences. (And before you tell me it's bad to indulge on LCHF we were always meticulous in counting carbs so as to never be above 30g in a day, that was the goal we were told to start with from the book Protein Power, a book I highly recommend). Every once in a while a would have a Reese's Peanut butter cup and she would have a bite (yes literally a bite) of Pasta at her mothers house.

    We both eventually gave up (around Thanksgiving of last year) and I had since gained 63 lbs back. We finally figured out a few weeks ago that my wife is gluten intolerant. So, she went off gluten and I went back on LCHF. In two weeks I have lost 17 lbs and she has lost 5. Once she has fully detoxed off gluten she is going to join me on LCHF.

    I was wondering if anyone else has seen this issue. Gluten intolerance making it next to impossible to lose weight, Even on LCHF? We think we found the issue and are hopeful it will work this time (I've made a commitment to myself that this isn't a diet but a lifestyle change this time). Like I said, she hasn't switched to LCHF yet (she LOVES potatoes and uses them as a comfort food as her moods have been shifting wildly while getting of gluten) so 5 lbs in two weeks is from dropping gluten only. Anyway, let me know and thanks for reading.

    tl;dr Has anyone seen someone not lose weight on LCHF because of gluten intolerance and getting trace amounts even in the LCHF diet?

  20. gbl
    I was doing quite well, with a moderate low-carb. Hovering around 100 because bananas and apples, I think. And lots of vegs, a little yogurt and chia seeds. I don't have Diabetes. I just need to lose weight. And I did, about 15 lbs in 6 weeeks.

    And I had started working out again. It felt so good, improved how I felt physically but more importantly, cognitively. I was PUMPED. I was sooo UP. Then I fell off the treadmill, cracked a rib and pulled/strained a paraspinal muscle. I am taped and medicated and feeling sorry for myself, because, what does it matter? I am too old to have goals. I feel defeated. I can barely move let alone workout. I can't cook. It will be at least a month before I can walk anywhere let alone treadmill. This is not something I planned.

    Hello. My name is gbl and I am eating carbs in front of the screeen.

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