So I am back in sunny Portugal from a very cold London where I attended the Food Matters Live conference 2014. The first thing to mention was the excellent exihibtion hall where every functional food you could dream of was displayed. I tried a coconut/kefir drink, a protein shake and some health bars. The most popular stand was of course the cricket products. One very noticeable trend was that none of the products were sweet, meaning no added sugars or no artificial sweeteners. Personally, I really liked it.
I spent most of my time in the Personalised nutrition seminar room where scientists presented on the latest trends on digital health and research finding from all over the globe. Here are some key topics covered in the sessions:
1. Consumer interest continues to increase in Personalised Nutrition
This can be attributed to more media focus around personalised health as well as an increased interest in preventative health or the “Quantified self” movement. Mobile apps are a great part of this trend.
2. There is a lack of an integrated approach in Personalised Nutrition
As mentioned in my last post, the industries of health tracking devices and personalised nutrition are still disjointed. Most companies take a more simplistic approach by just focusing on one aspect such as sleep or activity. This needs to change in order for Personalised nutrition to be realised.
3. Phenotype is more important than Genotype alone
Although it was always the intention that personalised nutrition should not be based on genotype alone, there was certainly a focus on a using phenotype data more. Biomarkers related to genotype will in the future provide a better way of monitoring patients/consumers remotely to get an accurte picture of what changes are occurring on a cellular level
4. Personalised nutrition service offering diversifies
Having your SNP´s (single nucleotide polymorphisms) analysed or your complete genome sequenced, will impact the services industry on a wider level. “New” services such as meal delivery and personalised chef dishes based according to your unique profile (genotype and phenotype) were mentioned although companies in the US and the UK are already doing this to some degree.
5. Developments in Systems Biology and Epigenetics add another layer of complexity
We hear all the time that the human body is complex. The disciplines of systems biology and epigenetics try to explain molecular processes and pathways using a combination of various sciences, yes…it´s complicated but very interesting. I think it may be some time before systems biology becomes part of the nutrition curriculum.
6. Increasing demand for expert Dietitians and Registered Nutritionists
According to consumer research across Europe, consumers trust dietitians and registered nutritionists the most when it comes to personalised nutrition and genotype information. This will only mean that the demand for expert nutrition professionals will increase and therefore the workforce needs to be up-skilled urgently to meet this future demand.
7. Diet-gene interactions we should be paying more attention to
Two very interesting presentations included one on Vitamin E and haptoglobulin (hp) which is a abundant plasma protein with an antioxidant function. Individuals with the hp 2-2 genotype produce a inferior protein product therefore making them more prone to oxidative damage. Previous research has indicated that Hp 2-2 individuals with Diabetes have an increased risk of Diabetes complications in particular cardiovascular disease. Supplementing these patients with Vitamin E results in a reduced CVD morbidity and mortality. In the future, maybe all DM patients should be genotyped and 2-2 individuals receive Vitamin E supplements as a routine measure. A great review article on this topic can be found here
The other great talk was on individual circulating plasma retinol levels due to different conversion rates based on genotype. I am still learning about this bit, but you can read another interesting article here
8. If you´re not online, you´re probably a fake
It was amazing from the reserach how consumers research and compare everything from price to organizational teams and data handling when it comes to personalised nutrition. It is therefore important to make web copies very clear and transparent.
9. Does Gender make a difference in the personalised nutrition industry?
One thing that was very noticeable in the session was that there were far more women present in the session although the presenters mentioned that in the research, more men were interested in Personalised nutrition. There were also quite a few bioinformatics and food industry professionals which gives you a good indicator of what drives the personalised nutrition market at present.
10. Be optimistic, but cautious…
The common thread during the two-day session was that although the evidence for true personalised nutrition is mounting, it is still early and that we need to be cautious about communicating research finding prematurely.
So altogether a great conference, and a very positive outlook for Personalised nutrition (yay!)
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Mariëtte Abrahams MBA RD is a Freelance dietitian and nutrition business consultant specialising in the area of personalised nutrition. She has over 15 years experience in the clinical nutrition and medical nutrition industry. She is the director of Pomegranate Nutrition Consulting which specialises in providing technical expertise and strategic advice on personalised nutrition to the (Bio)Technology, Functional Food and PR industry. W:https://marietteabrahams.com, T:+351 964450622 E:mariette”at”marietteabrahams.com