“The Personalized Diet” by Drs. Eran Segal and Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute presents the history behind their groundbreaking study on using personalized diets to control blood sugar, published in the scientific journal Cell in 2015. This book is especially timely because the microbiome and blood sugar are currently hot topics in nutrition and healthcare.
The book is divided into two parts. Part one delves into Segal and Elinav’s personal stories, which drove them together to research diet and blood sugar and ultimately develop an algorithm for designing personalized diets to control blood sugar. They provide the reader with the essential background on the microbiome — the microscopic organisms that live in and on a person — to understand why their work is important. Information about nutrition and blood sugar is also found in part one, though is not described as in-depth as the microbiome.
Part two takes the information described in part one and helps the reader put it into practice, laying out guidelines for testing your blood sugar at home using a simple lancet and meter to determine how your blood sugar responds to specific meals — and how you may be able to improve your blood sugar responses (for example, if your blood sugar spikes after eating wheat bread, you may be able to control the spike by adding a little butter or avocado to your bread). There are areas in the book where you can list which meals you plan to test, and then the results of your test. Advice is also given to individuals who just can’t stand the thought of pricking their finger multiple times a day.
What I Liked
Drs. Segal and Elinav have performed one of the few existing studies showing that the microbiome can be an important component to improving health through diet, and they do a fantastic job of making their work digestible by the layperson. I appreciated their clean, simple language and the use of text boxes and personal stories throughout. It is difficult for most scientists to write about their work in a way that is free from jargon and understandable by the majority. Drs. Segal and Elinav achieve this in a truly impressive manner. They also stayed focused, explaining only the microbiome and nutrition research relevant to their work, without making the reader feel as though anything was missing. They also emphasize where the research is and isn’t, and what we can and can’t do with the information, effectively avoiding hype while giving people something they can do today to learn more about their health and perhaps even improve it. This was an enjoyable read and I can’t wait to put into practice what I learned, using the guidelines and templates provided in part two.
What I Didn’t Like
Honestly, there isn’t much that I didn’t like about this book. I did feel that part two was a bit condensed compared to part one, which was so detailed, but I suppose that is due to the goals of each part (part one: education; part two: action). I also think that more information about their algorithm and how it was created could have been included, as those with scientific and mathematical minds will be curious about this; however, I understand that it was likely explained briefly and simply to avoid confusing the reader and losing his or her attention.
Who Will Like This Book
If you are interested in taking control of your health, learning more about your body, the microbiome, diet, and/or personalized medicine, this is a book for you. At the very least, you’ll learn more about the world of personalized diets, and you may even learn that the ice cream you allow as a rare indulgence may not be as bad for you as you think!