Lydia Afman and her multidisciplinary team are building a personalised digital twin to predict the rise in blood sugar (glucose), but especially the rise in blood fat (triglyceride) in the blood after a meal. Both are indicators of the risk of cardiovascular disease. There are no sensors for monitoring blood fat like there are for glucose – WUR has already done a lot of research into the latter. Based on already collected blood fat data from 500 overweight middle-aged people, the team will work together with researchers with knowledge of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create a digital model. The predictive capacity of this digital twin will be tested in a human study and then improved.
According to priority area leader Lydia Afman, associate professor of Human Nutrition and Health: “A person is also a system, just like a greenhouse, but every person responds differently in terms of blood fat. That is why we want to develop an algorithm based on this digital twin, with which we can predict the fat response and provide personal nutritional advice based on personal data, such as BMI, age, body fat distribution and, for example, blood pressure. We’re basically aiming for a personalised digital twin”.
Ultimately, the group wants to develop an app together with social scientists and dieticians, which provides nutritional advice in the form of recommended products or daily menu suggestions. The behaviour, preferences and values of the user must also be taken into account.
“It makes a lot of difference whether someone is a vegetarian, or is not allowed to have certain things because of his or her faith. Of course we want to develop something that works,” says Lydia.
According to her, the multidisciplinary collaboration of WUR employees is the strength of this project. “Our team includes nutritionists, a system / synthetic biologist, a toxicologist, economists with knowledge of the market and consumer behaviour, and researchers in food technology and bioinformatics. Everyone looks at the problem from their own discipline, and most are so specialised that you need each other to achieve a good result. The idea of a digital twin comes from the Strategic Plan, but is creatively implemented by the enthusiastic researchers. It’s very inspiring to be part of such an initiative”.