The Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports (NEXS) at the University of Copenhagen has conducted a randomised controlled interventional study to investigate the potential advantages of delivering personalised nutrition interventions (meals and dietary advice) to men and women with excess body weight.
We interviewed Kristina Pigsborg and Mona Aldubayan, PhD students, who are managing the Danish PREVENTOMICS study to learn more about the clinical trial conducted and find out about first results.
What were the main goals of this study?
The main goal of our pilot clinical trial was to investigate the effect of providing a personalised nutrition treatment plan — consisting of daily meals and dietary advice — to individuals with overweight or obesity over a 10-week period in relation to body weight loss and fat mass loss, compared to a nutrition plan based on general dietary recommendations. Furthermore, we wanted to explore the effects of these diets on a variety of cardiometabolic risk factors.
How many people participated, and which requirements had to meet?
We recruited men and women aged 18-65 years with excess body weight — but otherwise healthy — who had a smartphone. We ended up with 100 participants starting the 10-week intervention, randomly assigned to the personalised treatment group or the control group, of whom 82 completed the study.
The study lasted 10 weeks. Can you explain what was expected from participants during this period?
Before starting the intervention, all participants came to our facilities, where we collected a variety of anthropometric measures, biological samples (blood, urine, faeces, saliva), a full body scan for body composition, and questionnaires about health-related behaviours.
During the following 10 weeks, our local partner (Simple Feast) delivered food to participants twice a week, covering their breakfasts and dinners for 6 days of the week. These meals were tailored to the unique metabolic and genetic profile of the participants in the personalised group; instead, for the control group, meals were generic (adhering to general dietary recommendations for the population). These meals were almost ready to eat, but participants needed to do the last 10-15 min of preparation. Other than that, participants were receiving small behavioural messages nudging them to implementing these into their lifestyle. At the end of the intervention, participants came back to our facilities and all measurements and samples collected at baseline were repeated.
Could you prove that participants following PREVENTOMICS personalised nutritional advice and an individualised meal plan experienced a greater reduction in excess body fat and improved their overall health?
Unfortunately, we did not. Both diets led to small but significant reductions in body weight and fat mass, with no differences between the personalized and control interventions. We suspect this is because both treatment plans — the personalized one and the one based on general recommendations — provided diets that were generally healthy, and probably healthier than the habitual diets people typically consume. As a result, all participants lost some weight (about 3 kg) and body fat (about 2 kg).
Nonetheless, despite the generally mirror weight loss, we observed significant improvements in participants’ glycaemic and lipid profiles after the intervention.
Which indicators and technology did you use to assess the impact of the interventional study in participants’ health?
To measure the effects of the intervention on the health status of our participants, we used dual energy X ray absorptiometry, a technique that provides detailed composition of the body in bone, fat and lean tissues. We also used a wearable technology (accelerometer) to track participants’ physical activity habits. Finally, numerous health biomarkers are measured in blood, saliva, urine and faecal samples by a combination of standard analytical chemistry and novel ‘omics’ techniques.