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April 22 2010 12:00 AM

The old excuse, "I am only overweight because of my genes," is suddenly
gaining credibility as researchers uncover ever more evidence that the
way our bodies digest and process nutrients in the food we eat is
different for every person. The budding discipline of metabolomics
strives to investigate these differences in a scientific manner. Nutrition
scientists and food chemists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen
are on the front line: They have joined forces with outside experts to
form the Munich Functional Metabolomics Initiative, an
interdisciplinary network for driving research in this field.

When it comes to our genes, we are 99.9 percent identical. And
yet, every person looks different. But it does not end there. Recent
studies confirm that individual differences apply not only to
superficial traits -- they also define our metabolism. Researchers are
now asking how this is even possible considering the pool of nearly
identical genomes. Only once the fundamental mechanisms are uncovered
can conditions such as diabetes
or cardiovascular disease that stem from metabolic disorders be fully
understood and more effectively treated. Experts at the Center for Life
and Food Sciences Weihenstephan of the Technische Universitaet Muenchen
(TUM) have given high priority to the search for answers.

To this end the researchers have initiated a study called
HuMet. Fifteen healthy young men were closely scrutinized for four
days. They had to fast, eat and drink various types of standardized
nutrition, and submit to a variety of physical tests. All the while
numerous blood, urine, and breath samples were taken. Hannelore Daniel,
professor of nutritional physiology, and Prof. Hans Hauner, a
nutritional physician at the TUM, carried out the nutritional protocol
and test procedures, while Prof. Thomas Hofmann from the Chair of Food
Chemistry and Molecular Sensory Science used the samples for a
multitude of tests using his team's high-performance analytic tools.