Nutrition based on own metabolism makes people healthier

January 9, 2023

For the first time there is scientific evidence that a personalized diet, based on a person's metabolic profile, leads to better health. This conclusion follows years of research in a large-scale public-private partnership within TiFN. Maastricht UMC+ (MUMC+) and Wageningen University & Research (WUR). Where they joined forces with various knowledge institutes and companies in the food industry under the leadership of Professor of Human Biology Ellen Blaak (MUMC+). At Wageningen University & Research, Lydia Afman, associate professor at Human Nutrition and Health, was responsible for the study. The results were recently published in the leading scientific journal Cell Metabolism.

Afman is pleased with the results: “Food scientists have suspected for some time that the most optimal diet can differ from person to person. Never before has a study been done with this approach, size and to such an invasive degree. The research shows that variants within the general, healthy dietary advice lead to further improvements in the metabolism and that the optimal nutritional advice depends on a person's metabolic type.”

The study

The researchers from both the WUR and Maastricht designed a study in which 242 research participants followed a three-month nutrition programme. The programme was adapted to their metabolic profile and the recommended diet complied with the 'Guidelines for a good diet' of the Health Council. Before and after, the researchers measured glucose and fat metabolism and sensitivity to the hormone insulin. Insulin plays an important role in the regulation of sugar metabolism. These are important indicators of the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The study did not focus on weight loss.

Metabolic profile

The study participants were divided into two groups based on their metabolic profile. The classification was based on how well insulin does its job in the liver and muscles. With a reduced effect of insulin, the cells in the body are less or not able to control the sugar level in the blood, which can ultimately lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The participants were overweight (BMI above 25 kg/m2) and had metabolic disturbances, but no diabetes or cardiovascular disease (yet).

They received a personalised nutrition program based on a lottery. People who were less sensitive to the effect of insulin in the muscles appeared to benefit more from a diet that was relatively high in protein (for example, a lot of dairy products and nuts) and dietary fiber (for example, wholemeal products and vegetables) and low in fat. The participants with a reduced effect of insulin in the liver benefited more from a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids (for example, a lot of olive oil and nuts).

Afman: “In the future we will dive into the underlying mechanism of this. In addition, there may be even more metabolic profiles. We would also like to do more research on this.”

About the collaboration

This project was carried out within TiFN, a public-private partnership for precompetitive research in the field of nutrition and health. Funding for this research was obtained from industrial partners DSM Nutritional Products, FrieslandCampina and Danone Nutricia Research and AMRA Medical AB. Academic partners were Maastricht University Medical Center+, Wageningen University and Radboud University Medical Centre.


This article is adapted from a MUMC+ press release. For questions about the project as a whole, please contact Professor of Human Biology Ellen Blaak, through Rik van Laake: If you have any questions about this specific study, please contact associate professor Lydia Afman: