The Personlized Nutrition Project

About Us

The Personalized Nutrition Project is a large-scale nutrition initiative that aims to help people make food choices that are better for their health and well-being. We take an unbiased scientific approach to nutrition that combines the collection of a wide range of information and the development of accurate predictive algorithms.

We are all different. Therefore, general recommendations about food may not be good for everyone. Here, we intend to make food selection a personalized process, as it should be.

The Personalized Nutrition Project is led by Prof. Eran Segal and Dr. Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Our Story

The modern era is marked by an unhealthy increase in body weight across the world. Metabolic diseases are also on the rise, with more and more cases of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. General nutritional recommendations, published by governmental agencies, are not effective for controlling these rises in weight and disease. This is largely because different people respond differently to food. Therefore, food choices that are good for one person may not be good for another.

One source of such variability is our microbiome - the collection of 100 trillion germs and microbes that we carry around with us. Each of us has a unique microbiome, which is affected by what we eat, and in turn, affects our response to food (learn more).

Our aim in the Personalized Nutrition Project is to understand individual variation and construct a truly personalized diet.

How we do it

We take an unbiased and scientific approach to the nutritional problem.

During a special measurement week, our participants are connected to a glucometer that measures their blood sugar response to the food they eat during that week, as well as their blood sugar response to exercise, sleeping, and other activities. Participants are asked to log what they eat and when they exercise and sleep using a specialized mobile application that we designed. Participants are also asked to hand in a sample of their microbiome for analysis.

After collecting this information, we design algorithms that utilize our entire database of microbiome and responses to foods in order to predict how each participant responds to food that he/she did not test, thus arriving at personalized nutritional predictions.

Who is it for?

The Personalized Nutrition Project is open for registration and is free of charge.

The first stage of the project is currently available only in Israel and is open to people who are at least 18 years old and do not inject insulin.

Each of us is home to over 100 trillion microbes that reside in our gut, skin, mouth, and other body locations. These microbes, collectively known as the human microbiome, are a collection of thousands of species of bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses, which together contain 100-times more genes than are present in the human genome.

Our microbiome has an enormous effect on our physiology and health. On the one hand, our microbes benefit us by providing many essential nutrients and vitamins that are not directly available from our food, and by protecting us from harmful disease-causing bacteria that invade our body. On the other hand, changes in the microbiome induced by our lifestyle can lead to many illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, digestive diseases, and neurological disorders. As one example of the importance of the microbiome, the transplantation of the microbiome from an obese mouse into a lean mouse was shown to be enough for inducing obesity in the lean mouse in a matter of several weeks and without any change in the food intake of the mouse. As research progresses, we can see more and more evidence that changing a disrupted microbiome composition to a more healthy one may be a mean by which numerous diseases may be treated.

However, despite strong evidence for its important role in human physiology and disease, little is known about how microbiome is shaped by our diet and even less is known about the biological mechanisms it uses to affect our health. Unlike the field of human genetics, which has grown several-fold since the publication of the human genome in 2000 with studies showing associations between genetic variation and disease, the microbiome field is at a very early stage. Due to the immense number of different DNA molecules in the microbiome, it has only recently become cost-effective to sequence its entire DNA content. To date, only a handful of studies exist showing associations between the genetic composition of the microbiome and human disease. Interestingly, though, the few reported associations between microbiome and disease are stronger than those reported between the human genome and those same diseases, possibly because the microbiome already represents a combined readout of genetic and environmental effects. These stronger associations highlight the great potential held by the microbiome for understanding human physiology and disease.

For further reading: A New-York Times article on the microbiome.