Food4me is a large online study designed to test whether personalized nutrition advice based on analysis of phenotypes (waist cicrumference, blood markers: glucose, cholesterol, carotenes, n-3 index ) or genotypes (SNPs in genes such as MTHFR, FTO, TCF7L2, APOE E4, FADS1 ) could perform better than standard nutritional advice. The study recruited more than 1,600 volunteers from across Europe to take part. Participants performed quantified health self-analyses such as biometric measurements and movement counts. They also used a do-it-yourself blood sampling technique that involves drying blood from a finger prick on absorbent paper, which can then be analyzed for more than 92 metabolic biomarkers in a lab. They also submitted saliva samples that were checked for more than 36 genetic variants that have been linked to nutritional needs and health outcomes.
"A scientific knowledge base was developed, capturing the current knowledge in the field of nutrition
with a particular focus on the interaction of food consumption, nutrient intakes, biomarkers,
genetic variation to health. SNP information comprises risk allele frequencies as well as gene
symbols and functions. The collected scientific knowledge represented in the data base covers
currently 35 food items, 92 biomarkers, 36 genetic variations, 16 different health outcomes, and
180 established interactions based on scientific publications and an expert assessment."
After one year, the results are in. Although their internet-based nutritional intervention was associated with positive outcomes, a recent whitepaper concluded that, after testing various diets, there were no improved health outcomes from phenotypic or genetic information.
The researchers state that, "despite enormous efforts over the last decade to identify gene variants that define the susceptibility of an individual to a life-style dependent disease, the outcomes of the large-scale profiling studies are rather disappointing. Although a large number of genes and variants have
been found (there are for example around 60 genes that carry a susceptibility risk to develop
type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM)), the effect sizes of each individual gene variant are generally
very low. In almost all cases, the risk-variant increases disease risks by only a very few percent..."