Chocolate study signals way to personalised health diets

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

A study has shed new light on people's food preferences and a
specific chemical signature that can be programmed into the
metabolic system, leading the way to healthy diets that cater to an
individual's needs.

Proteome research is a relatively new area which involves characterising the structure of all the proteins produced by our genes, so as to understand the metabolic changes that take place when we digest food. The scientists, from the Nestle Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, say their findings from laboratory work on chocolate-eaters break new ground and could eventually help with the classification of individuals by metabolic type. This, in turn, could be used to design healthier diets that are in tune to an individual's needs, they say. "We know that some people can eat a diet that is high in steak and carbs and generally remain healthy, while the same food in others is unhealthy,"​ said lead researcher Sunil Kocchar. "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." ​ The controlled clinical study, which is published next month in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Proteome Research involved 22 men, half of whom classified themselves in questionnaires as 'chocolate-desiring', and half of whom 'chocolate-indifferent'. The men ate either chocolate or a placebo over a five day period, during which their blood and urine samples were also analysed using spectroscopy-based metabotyping Methods and multivariate statistics to identify specific metabolic subclasses. They found that the chocolate-lovers had a hallmark metabolic profile that involved low levels of LDL cholesterol and marginally elevated levels of the beneficial protein albumin. This profile was expressed even when they ate no chocolate. Moreover, there were distinct differences in the activity of the gut microbes in the chocolate-lovers. "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,"​ said Kochhar. No women were included in the study group because the researchers wanted to avoid metabolic variations linked to the menstrual cycle skewing the results. But Kohhar and his team do plan to conduct further studies in the area to see if there is a gender-specific response to chocolate. He predicts that spur blood or urine tests to determine metabolic type could one day be available. But since proteome research is a relatively new field, these could still be five years away, as more research is needed. Chocolate makers, including Barry Callebaut and Mars, as well as Nestle, have been keenly researching the potential benefits of chocolate for human health, with a slate of promising results communicated in the last couple of years. In addition to the light the new results shed on metabolic types, the researchers say it could also lead to the discovery of additional biomarkers that can identify new health benefits linked to chocolate and other foods. Source: Journal of Proteome Research​, November 2, 2007 DOI: Not available at time of article publication Title: Human Metabolic Phenotypes Link Directly to Specific Dietary Preferences in Healthy Individuals​ Authors: Serge Rezzi, Ziad Ramadan, Francüois-Pierre Martin, Laurent Fay, Peter van Bladeren, John Lindon, Jeremy Nicholson, and Sunil Kochhar

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