Healthy eating – simple and complicated

Most people probably have a pretty clear idea, both about what is good to eat and the opposite. But for me as a food researcher, I need more than an idea to draw conclusions. I must be able to show how it works and why. Therefore, food research is much about examining how food and drink in different combinations work in practice, in the human body. We do this with so-called clinical studies, where groups of people eat and drink under controlled conditions while we measure and analyze different markers, usually through blood tests.

This may seem easy, but there are a number of factors that complicate even the simplest clinical study. The trickiest is to create the controlled conditions. We need to remove as much as possible that can interfere with the results. Many of the clinical studies I have worked with have been about measuring how blood sugar changes in connection with different meals. It may seem “narrow”, but the reason is that blood sugar fluctuations is a very important health marker that is possible to control through what we eat. The only problem is that there is so much more than what we eat that affects blood sugar. Sleep, exercise and stress levels are just a few examples. A clinical study is therefore much about minimizing the sources of error by creating as equal conditions as possible around each test occasion. In order to get reliable results, we must include enough people in the study. And then we have to check the effect of what we test against something else. For example, a high-fiber breakfast compared to a breakfast based on white bread.

The clinical trials are further complicated by the amount of blood samples to analyze. The clinical studies behind the development of Good Idea has brought along lots of logistics, many unpleasant stings in the fingers and thousands of samples to handle manually. But right now something else is going on, which may make our future clinical studies both simpler and more precise. Just now, we are testing to equip a number of subjects with so-called continuous blood glucose meters. These can log the blood glucose level every five minutes 24/7 with the help of a super-thin sensor under the skin. After calibration, I hope that this method will largely be able to replace the blood samples. And it will be even better after the long-anticipated breaktrough in non-invasive (no needles!) blood glucose monitoring hopefully coming soon. Being able to carry a monitor e.g. in integrated in a wristwatch will not only revolutionize clinical trials. When everyone can easily keep track of their blood sugar (and probably a lot of other things as well), completely new opportunities open up for each of us to see and understand the connections between what we eat and how we feel. Health will become both personal and scientific.

A watch like that is high on my wish list, both as a researcher, and as a generally curious person.

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