Personalised nutrition: no longer just a future dream

Published: 27-Sep-2018

NEWTRITION X. Innovation Summit: experts from academia, market research and the food industry analysed the top trend in 2018/2019

Invited by the industry network foodRegio eV, more than 150 participants from all over Europe attended the Personalised Nutrition Innovation Summit in Luebeck in September to discuss both opportunities and challenges and gain insight from leading experts in the field.

According to the speakers, personalisation is not just one of many options, it’s the central mechanism for preventing and tackling lifestyle diseases in the long-term. Examples of the practical use of this concept made it clear that a nutrition “revolution” has already begun, heralding a second NEWTRITION X. congress in 2019 that will take place during Anuga in Cologne, Germany.

In his keynote speech, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, President Emeritus at Nestlé, addressed current problems such as obesity and the resulting decline in life expectancy on the one hand and malnutrition — overshadowed by massive population growth — on the other. “Politicians, industry and science need to focus on how nutrition can be made more healthy and sustainable in the future … and targeted to meet individual requirements,” he said.

The current state of nutrition science and medicine

The physician and nutrition scientist Professor Dr med. Manfred J. Mueller questioned established nutrition guidelines in his lecture. “These were implemented using poorly designed studies and have since been disproved,” he said.

“The task of today’s science is to question new findings independently and critically.”

Today, the microbiome, as presented by Prof. Dr Karsten Kristiansen from Copenhagen, is regarded as one of the central foundations of healthy nutrition. And although connections between the intestinal microbiome and diabetes, inflammation and even mental illnesses have already been uncovered, according to the molecular biologist, this is still only the tip of the iceberg.

Rudi Schmidt, Group Division Manager, Precision Medicine at Asklepios Clinics, explained that personalisation is not just limited to nutrition. “In medicine so far, we’ve always looked for the single smoking gun,” he said, “which is an approach that hasn’t worked. Precision medicine doesn't simply focus on the treatment of a single disease, but on factors such as genetics, environmental influences or lifestyle as well.”

Consumers and industry in the spotlight

Prof. Dr med. Christian Sina from the University of Luebeck explained how research findings could be translated into nutritional concepts, suitable for everyday use.

“Science and industry must work together to combat the pandemic dimensions of obesity,” he stated, citing a study in which data from continuous blood glucose measurements, intestinal microbial analysis and test meals were clustered to define certain diet types. “In such cases,” he noted, “it would be sufficient to make a few dietary adjustments to achieve balanced blood sugar levels and weight loss.”

Joana Maricato, Head of Market Research at New Nutrition Business, addressed Personalised Nutrition from a consumer perspective, observing: “People are confused by changing nutrition guidelines and the multitude of recommendations, especially in the new media."

"As a result, consumers are increasingly creating their own personalised diets, which might be a gap in the market and something that’s currently being served by smaller brands and e-commerce companies.”

Putting it into practice

Dominik Burziwoda, CEO of Perfood, introduced the MillionFriends programme, which offers Personalised Nutrition solutions. Collected data has shown that not only are reactions to food individual, some subjects even responded adversely to apparently healthy foods such as whole grains or tomatoes.

“Food manufacturers could have their products tested in a study and thus find out how this affects blood sugar levels and the microbiome to further optimise it,” suggested Dominik.

In an accompanying exhibition, the conference participants were able to exchange ideas with the speakers and learn more about their work on personalised nutrition.

Prof. Dr Björn P. Jacobsen from foodRegio eV noted: "Personalised Nutrition is the way to a healthy future. We hope that our visitors were not only able to benefit from the presentations, but also from the spirit of change at this summit. Such revolutionary concepts now need the innovation and energy of the greater food industry."

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