Q: My husband and I are about the same size and age (35) and are equally active. But when I eat what he eats, I pack on pounds and he doesn’t! I don’t get it. Can you explain? -- Karen F., Lexington, Kentucky
A: The difference in how food affects your weight compared to your husband’s may seem mysterious, but each person metabolizes food according to his or her own body’s makeup (gut biome, weight, muscle mass -- all kind of things affect metabolism).
Recently, researchers at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science collected data on 800 healthy and prediabetic people using health questionnaires, body measurements, blood tests, continuous glucose monitoring, stool samples and a digital lifestyle-and-food-intake diary. After also analyzing 46,898 meals, they found that if people eat the exact same meal, it can be metabolized very differently and its effect on blood glucose is highly individual. In fact, the Glycemic Index assigned to a food as a measurement of how it will affect a person’s blood sugar level turned out to be frequently inaccurate.
The study then analyzed some participants’ stool samples to identify bacteria in their guts and correlate the mix of microbes with how much a person’s blood sugar went up after eating certain foods. Then, by changing a participant’s diet in response to his or her glucose readings, the researchers were able to alter individual gut biomes and reduce some of the glucose spikes, which indicate a risk for everything from heart disease to diabetes to high blood pressure.
So, Karen, if you want to know what foods will keep you healthy, keep a food diary (avoid foods with added sugars, added syrups and non-100 percent whole grains) and take a probiotic. You also could test your blood sugar before and after meals to see if certain foods are spiking your glucose levels and adding pounds. If all that that doesn’t work -- although it probably will -- talk with your doctor about having your stool sample analyzed to see if your biome is well-balanced. Bottom line: Individualize your diet, take a probiotic and see how various foods make you feel. It will change your life.
Q: My kids overzapped a bag of popcorn and acrid black smoke poured out everywhere. I got everyone out of the kitchen, opened windows and put fans all around. The microwave was toast. Exactly how toxic was that stuff? -- Nikki C., Tampa, Florida
A: Your instincts were good, and you did the right thing. That black smoke was probably pretty toxic: Chances are it contained chemicals that are similar to burning Teflon, polytetrafluoroethylene. The lining of most microwave popcorn packages has fluorinated chemicals in it, designed to keep the butter and the popcorn fresh. Fluorinated chemicals can be hazardous; however their trade groups claim fluorotechnology has improved a lot over the past several years.
We suggest you thoroughly wash the ceiling, walls, everything in the kitchen while wearing wear disposable gloves and using paper towels. Get a new microwave. And about that popcorn...
Last year Denmark’s largest co-op retailer, Coop Denmark (revenue of 6 billion euros in 2014), pulled microwave popcorn from shelves, because they couldn’t find a supplier that didn’t use fluorinated chemicals in the packaging. In 2006 they banned PVC and phthalates in packaging for foods they sell. Coop Denmark (they employ a corporate social responsibility consultant) identifies fluorinated chemicals as toxic endocrine disruptors. But their action inspired innovation and something brand-new popped in the microwave popcorn industry: fluorinated-free microwave popcorn bags, made by the Spanish snack company Liven. That company developed a stronger paper bag based on natural cellulose (and no fluorinated chemicals), and sales are through the roof.
Customer loyalty at Coop is fierce. And as business administration professors here in the U.S. point out, these trendsetters have a huge strategic advantage over their more reactionary rivals. Maybe someone in the U.S. can take advantage of their ideas and bring that popcorn over here.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.