People have very individualized inflammatory responses to eating a high-fat meal, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry by researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and their University of California-Davis colleagues.

The researchers looked at the inflammatory reactions of 20 volunteers at 0, 3, and 6 hr after eating a standardized meal containing 38% fat. The test meal was equivalent to someone having a small hamburger, small fries, and a small ice cream shake with fruit, according to the scientists.

Inflammation—defined as a group of responses by the body telling white blood cells how much to react—is a normal reaction to eating a meal, especially one with high amounts of fat. Inflammation is defense mechanism in the body as the body’s attempt at self-protection. It also is part of the body’s immune response. Inflammation is associated with a whole host of conditions such as asthma, diabetes, peptic ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis, and many others.

The researchers found that each volunteer in the study had both a unique amount of inflammatory response and a unique amount of time for when the responses peaked, up to 6 hr after eating (8 or more hours is considered fasting by nutritionists).

The researchers used a very sensitive test to look at whether any genes in the human genome were turned off or on in order to define a volunteer’s reactions. Responses by more than 13,000 genes differed between subjects.

One reason these results are so intriguing is the growing interest in personalized nutrition. “We need to understand what the variability is between people before we can consider starting to set different requirements in diets,” said molecular biologist Danielle Lemay at the ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, Calif.


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