Published NOVEMBER 14, 2021 in The Jerusalem Post
By ZEV STUB
An Israeli company developed a system that uses artificial intelligence to predict people with diabetes’ blood sugar response to foods, enabling them to manage their sugar levels more efficiently.
“Generic diets for diabetes patients don’t usually work,” says Amir Golan, vice president of business development and strategic partnerships for DayTwo. “If you tell someone they need to avoid carbohydrates, most people won’t be able to stick with that for the long-term. But even for something as unhealthy as ice cream, we can find ways to mitigate the damage so people can eat it once in a while. Using data to teach a person to combine foods based on their microbiome profile is more effective than generic diets, and has higher levels of success.”The medical world’s understanding of diabetes treatment has changed significantly in the past six years, Golan said in an interview for World Diabetes Day, an annual event created in 1991 to help build awareness about the disease’s growing health threat.DayTwo’s system analyzes a person’s gut microbiome and uses artificial intelligence to predict their blood sugar response to foods for a sustainable approach to managing type-2 diabetes and prediabetes.
“In 2015, Dr. Eran Segal and Prof. Eran Elinav from the Weizman Institute published research from the largest such study ever done at the time showing that people reacted much better to personalized diets,” Golan said. “It demonstrated that if you have enough data, you could create an algorithm that could show how individuals will react to certain foods better than any system that is out there, with significant clinical impact. That created a tremendous buzz, and we started getting calls from just about every health organization. There had been some discussion about personalization beforehand, but no one knew how to go about it and measure it.”DayTwo’s solution starts with the client submitting a stool sample by mail to the company’s lab near the Weizman Institute in Rehovot. “There is no other way for us to analyze the microbes that you have,” Golan said. “So we send you kit, and you provide the sample, which we use to run a sequencing analysis of your DNA of the bacteria. We also ask for the results of some blood tests and have you fill out a questionnaire about your lifestyle. We put the data into our proprietary algorithm, and it helps us to predict before you eat, how your particular body is going to react to specific food combinations.”
Combining carbohydrates with other foods can mitigate some of the damage, but you have to know the right foods to use, Golan said. “If you and I are having Shabbat dinner together, my blood sugar might spike from eating challah bread with tehina, while yours stays the same because our bodies react differently. Some of it is about using the right fats, like avocado, nuts, olive oil, and things like that. It means learning about the right kinds of combinations that work for your body.”Ahead of World Diabetes Day November 14, DayTwo published a new study showing that a personalized diet controlled blood sugar levels significantly better than the Mediterranean diet, a favorite plan of diabetes patients for its focus on vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. The average daily time that participants were above the normal range of blood sugar levels (above 140 mg) decreased by about 29% in the Mediterranean diet, and by about 65% in the DayTwo diet, the report said. More significantly, people using the personalized plan maintained lower sugar levels over a 12-month span, because the plan was less invasive to their lives.
“Unlike most diets that prevent people from eating many foods, our unique algorithm learns the profile of the user and allows people to make slight menu changes according to what they like, while still seeing a big impact on their sugar levels, and maintaining their personal health principles over time,” said Michal Tzalach David, a senior dietitian at DayTwo.DayTwo also offers a weight loss program that helps people keep the weight off by learning to identify which foods are most problematic for their bodies. Many of the people following the diabetes program also report weight loss as a positive side effect.“When you control your sugar level, you are less hungry,” Golan said. “Obesity is obviously not just about sugar – there are many factors like stress, lifestyle, exercise, etc. But when we help people get control of their blood sugar levels and provide personal advice from professionals, it delivers great results.”In the United States, DayTwo works with many of the largest health insurance providers and is available in many corporate health plans. In Israel, the company has arrangements with the Clalit and Maccabi health funds or can be purchased privately via the company’s website, daytwo.com.Diabetes is rapidly growing around the world. In 2019, it was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths, with prevalence rising fastest in low- and middle-income countries. In Israel, diabetes is a leading cause of death and affects 6.4% of adults over age 18.