126: Lihi Segal—Get Healthy And Avoid Disease With Personalized Nutrition

 Lihi Segal explains how microbiomes are the key to health!

I first heard about heard Lihi Segal in a TED Talk about how our diets are unique to our bodies. It was so interesting. It’s not about how much we eat, it’s the precise mix of foods we consume. I reached out to Lihi and DayTwo, her research company that’s developing this new approach, to see if they would share with us their research findings and what it might mean for each of us. The implications of this new understanding of nutrition are enormous. What if we all could be healthier and avoid disease if we better understood what’s good and bad for our individual bodies? This is big. Listen in, learn and share this conversation! It could change your life.

Perhaps it is time to think about not A DIET but YOUR DIET

Lihi Segal-squareLihi Segal is CEO and co-founder of DayTwo, a leader in the development of microbiome-based precision medicine, focusing on metabolic disease. For those of us who don’t know, your gut microbiome is the collection of all the microbes (around 100 trillion) that exist in your digestive tract and help you digest food. Your microbiome is unique to you, and influences the way your body reacts to different foods.

A new frontier in medicine

A study conducted in 2015 at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and published in Cell was the catalyst that got Lihi into the field of personalized, microbiome-based diet solutions. The study, which for one week continuously monitored blood sugar levels in over a thousand people, revealed that the bodily response to foods was highly individual.

Called the Personalized Nutrition Project, the study was led by Professors Eran Segal of the Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Department and Eran Elinav of the Immunology Department. They decided to look at why diets fail and why one person can eat, say, bread and another person can’t.

Segal and Elinav decided that perhaps the whole approach is wrong and instead of looking at the food, we need to look at the person. This led them to develop an algorithm that collects a person’s health data and then predicts which foods and meals would be good for them and which would be bad, with “good” being a meal that doesn’t spike blood sugar levels after eating it.

Prof. Segal said: “We chose to focus on blood sugar because elevated levels are a major risk factor for diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. The huge differences in the rise of blood sugar levels among different people who consumed identical meals highlights why personalized eating choices are more likely than universal dietary advice to help people stay healthy.”

It’s all about your gut microbiome

What caught Lihi’s attention was the ability of Segal and Elinav’s technology to customize low blood sugar level diets for each individual, something very new in the nutrition realm, so her company licensed it. If she could help people avoid disease, and death, Lihi was in.

DayTwo2Researchers at DayTwo then built a mathematical predictive model app that tells you how your blood sugar is going to respond to any meal you eat. Based on that model, they now can create customized diets for their clients so they can successfully avoid high blood sugar levels that cause energy dips, excessive hunger, weight gain and increased risk of obesity and diabetes. As part of their program, they also provide suggested meals, snacks and the services of a dietician.

Along these same lines, recent research has shown that your genetic background is not as influential in your microbiome as you might have thought. It is less genetics than a reflection of the people you live with, the foods, drugs and drinks you consume, and your lifestyle. That’s why DayTwo’s assessment methodology is so innovative—it helps you identify the right diet for your personal “gut.”

Think about the implications of this approach

Your health to a very large extent stems from how your body processes food. The trillions of bacteria that live in your gut, which differ greatly from person to person, are part of how you uniquely respond to food. Different people have different blood sugar responses to the same foods, which is why it is essential to understand what your particular body needsand to eat accordingly.

Wanting to bring this groundbreaking technology from Isreal to the U.S., Lihi and DayTwo helped the Mayo Clinic replicate the Weizmann Institute trial which got the same results. Heidi Nelson, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine Microbiome Program, explains:

“We have long wondered why one diet works for one person, but not another. Now, we are beginning to understand that how a person processes food depends upon that individual’s gut microbiome, immune system and the community of bacteria in the gut. Given these multiple factors, we are exploring ways to develop customized diets that will maintain wellness and prevent the development of disease.”

Nelson adds: “Glucose levels are abnormally high in patients with diabetes, and traditional interventions to control glucose levels have had limited benefit for them. These study results highlight the important role that personalized diets can play in maintaining better control over blood glucose levels and overall health.”

How do you get started with DayTwo?

As Lihi tells us in the podcast, just go to DayTwo’s website and order your home testing kit online, which contains everything you need. In addition, over 200 clinics in the U.S. have signed up with her program. Better health is actually attainable for all of us.

Some background on Lihi

Lihi Segal has over 20 years of experience leading business and financial operations, spanning Interoperability and Health Information Exchange (HIE), Population Management, Electronic Health Records and Analytics. Before launching DayTwo, Lihi was COO and CFO of Sisense, a leading provider of business intelligence and analytics software, and CFO of dbMotion Ltd. where she was instrumental in growing the company up until its acquisition by Allscripts Healthcare, a leading U.S. EMR company. Prior to that, Lihi held senior roles in a number of businesses, from startups to large public enterprises. She is also a lawyer with an LLB from Tel-Aviv University and an MBA from Northwestern University.

Additional resources:

Download the 1-page synopsis of my book, “On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights” here