The effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet depends on the genetic profile of each person. A new study has shown how each individual benefits differently from the intake of the same amount of a natural antioxidant, tyrosol. This opens the door to a customization of the recommended amounts of consumption.
Our genetic variability influences the way in which our body takes advantage of the potential benefits of the Mediterranean diet. This is highlighted by a study led by experts from the Hospital del Mar Institute for Medical Research (IMIM), published by the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
The work consisted of administering to a group of people at high risk of suffering a coronary disease a natural antioxidant present in various foods of the Mediterranean diet: tyrosol. In addition, they analyzed how the genetics of the participants influence their ability to achieve maximum benefit.
The expected beneficial effects were not observed in one of every three participants, since their organism and metabolism were not efficient enough
Specifically, 32 volunteers participated in a randomized cross-controlled clinical trial. Subjects in a randomized way had to follow a standard Mediterranean diet for three periods of four weeks.
In the first, they had to drink water during meals. In the second, a glass of white wine poor in phenols and, in the third, a glass of white wine supplemented with a capsule with a dose of tyrosol, equivalent to its content in a liter of wine.
The tyrosol is a phenol, an aromatic organic compound which is naturally present in olive oil, wine or beer. This substance has a limited antioxidant capacity, but when ingested it is transformed in the body into hydroxytyrosol, with a potent antioxidant effect.
What was observed is that not everyone benefits from it in the same way. In one of every three participants the expected beneficial effects were not observed, since their organism and metabolism were not efficient enough in this process and achieved almost no benefit.
This is due to the presence of certain genetic mutations that affect their ability to convert tyrosol into hydroxytyrosol. These mutations affect a set of genes (CYP2D6 and CYP2A6) specialized in regulating the metabolism of drugs and other compounds outside the body and facilitating excretion from the body.
Benefits for cardiovascular health
Anna Boronat, researcher of Integrated Pharmacology and Neuroscience of Systems of the IMIM and first signatory of the study, pointed out that these results explain “one of the mechanisms by which a micronutrient of the Mediterranean diet makes its effect“. At the same time, the role of this antioxidant and its derivative, hydroxytyrosol , has been shown to improve endothelial function, a key factor in arterial health.
The results of the work lead its authors to consider the possibility of adapting the recommendations of the food intake of the Mediterranean diet to the ability of each individual to take advantage of the positive substances they provide. Each one can obtain a different benefit from different doses of the same food.
“It has always been explained that a glass of wine or two tablespoons of olive oil are recommended for cardiovascular health,” recalls Anna Boronat, “but they are not equally beneficial for everyone. Nutritional recommendations have always been made at the population level assuming that we are all the same.”
“Today we are seeing that each one can obtain a different benefit from different doses of the same food or, even, the consumption of a food that one person can benefit another does not benefit or can be harmful.”
“This leads us to propose that dietary recommendations in the future have to be made more individually in the context of personalized medicine,” says Rafael de la Torre, head of the research group that led the study.
This type of diet, included in 2010 in the Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, is one of the most balanced and healthy food patterns in the world. In addition, adherence to this dietary pattern is high in the long term because of the variety of foods and rich in plant-based fats.
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of this type of diet in promoting health and preventing diseases such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes or cancer. The next step is to know if this pattern favors everyone equally since its adaptation according to genetic characteristics, age, gender, type of disease, etc., could even enhance its benefits.