Learning From Other Diabetics: Diet, Exercise, Metabolism

Gretchen Becker Health Guide
  • Your Mileage May Vary


    We call it YMMV, or "your mileage may vary," meaning that we're all slightly different, and the diet or treatment that works best for me might not be the one that works best for you.


    Now the scientists are beginning to look into this and guess what? They're finding that different groups of people are very different metabolically.


    Elaine Holmes and Ruey Leng Loo of Imperial College in London identified all the chemical compounds in urine samples from 4680 people frozen (the urine samples, not the people) between 1997 and 1999. The samples came from people aged 40 to 59 years in China, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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    They found an array of different metabolites (products of digestion) in the urine. They call this entire array a person's metabolome. Of the thousands of compounds, about 20 to 40 were different in different populations.


    "What our study really shows is how incredibly metabolically diverse people are around the world," said Jeremy Nicholson of Imperial College. The researchers found that British and American metabolomes are almost identical, but "Japanese and Chinese people are totally different metabolically, even though they are nearly identical genetically."


    Nicholson said the largest difference in the metabolome was between people from South China and "everyone else," meaning everyone within the four groups tested.


    This variation may be related to differences in diet and other lifestyle factors between different populations rather than to innate genetic differences. Nicholson said the populations in South China have "a very different and much broader range of diet."


    The researchers attribute some of the differences to different populations of gut bacteria. And the bacterial population in your gut -- especially the colon, where fiber is digested -- can depend on what you eat as well as whether or not you've taken antibiotics. Foods such as yogurt and kefir are supposed to increase the populations of "good bacteria" in your gut and decrease the populations of less beneficial bacteria.


    Lifestyle differences that may contribute to differences in metabolomes also contribute to the YMMV factor in diabetes control.


    For example, someone who runs 10 miles a day may do best on a diet that differs from that of someone who has severe arthritis for whom even walking is difficult. A young person with good digestion might be different metabolically from an old person with less ability to digest or absorb certain nutrients and would require a different approach to treatment.


    The advantage of communicating with other people with diabetes is that we can learn what works for other people. Then we can try it ourselves. But if it doesn't work for us, that doesn't mean we're doing something wrong. It may just be that we have a different metabolome.

Published On: April 30, 2008