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EU project to investigate opportunities and limitations of personalised nutrition

By Nathan Gray , 20-Jul-2011

A new EU funded project will gather an international group of experts to examine the application of nutrigenomic research to personalised nutrition, and identify the opportunities and limitations.

The four year project, known as Food4Me, will consider all aspects of personalised nutrition; from investigating consumer understanding to producing technologies for implementation and investigating gene expression in response to diet.

“We have dealt with population dietary advice for many, many decades … The concept of personalized nutrition started off with the idea that based on genomics we could give an individual his or her own dietary advice,” explained Professor Mike Gibney of the Institute of Food and Health, University College Dublin (UCD), who will coordinate the project.

Personalised Nutrition

When the human genome sequence was launched in 2000, it introduced the possibility of personalisation in health care. Many believe that such personalisation can be applied to other key health determinant, such as nutrition, by creating a diet tailored specifically for an individual, according to their individual physical and genetic make-up.

Previous research has shown that individuals respond differently to various nutrients. For example, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have been found to be more beneficial for individuals with a particular genetic make-up (Ferguson et al., Atherosclerosis, doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2010.03.027 ).

Rather than applying overarching dietary guidance to the whole population, personalised nutrition separates the individual and considers their specific physical and genetic characteristics.

The practice has previously been touted as the future of nutrition, and has been said to offer significant potential to improve public health. However the early promises of personalised nutrition have not yet lived up to such forecasts.

The Food4Me project will now investigate the possibility of designing diets based on a person’s genetic make-up.

Project details

A major component of the study will be a large human intervention study investigating the effectiveness of personalised nutrition.

The study will offer participants differing levels of dietary advice; tailored to individual physical characteristics, individual genetic make-up, as well as advice with no personalisation.

The research to determine the effectiveness of nutrigenomic and personalised nutrition methods, in addition to the development of appropriate technologies for its implementation, will be supported by investigations of public perceptions towards the concept of personal nutrition.

“In employing this holistic approach we hope to draw together cutting-edge research and instigate a significant step forward in the field of personalised nutrition” said Gibney.

“The idea is that after four years we’ll have a series of reports that will set out what the opportunities and limitations are for personalised nutrition. We’ll be examining the different options for business models, such as food companies, insurance firms and electronics firms,” said Gibney.

A webinar introducing the Food4Me project by project coordinator Professor Gibney can be found here .

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