Clear communication is key for the success of personalised nutrition
EU-funded researchers have shown that consumers given clear nutritional information are more likely to be open to personalised nutrition.
A recently published survey suggests that providing clear and understandable information about the potential benefits of personalised nutrition increases the chances of consumers accepting and adopting the concept. EU-funded researchers believe that this could lead to improvements in public health.
This particular survey was carried out as part of the EU-funded FOOD4ME project, which since 2011 has been investigating the potential of nutrigenomics in delivering meaningful health outcomes to EU citizens. Nutrigenomics combines the study of nutrition and genetics, and aims to better understand the different ways that people respond to food based on their genetic make-up.
This most recent project survey took the form of a questionnaire and involved over 9 000 participants from nine European countries (Germany, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, the UK, and Norway). The results demonstrated that if participants understood the benefits associated with personalised nutrition, then they were more positive towards adopting the concept.
The survey also showed that participants with a higher level of nutritional knowledge – and interest in eating nutritionally – were generally more positive towards nutrigenomics. These results were consistent across all nine countries.
The FOOD4ME project is important because the promise of personalised nutrition has so far failed to take off commercially. Matching dietary advice to genetic profiles has also proven difficult. That is why the project, which has received nearly EUR 9 million in EU funding, has gathered together an international group of experts to survey current knowledge of personalised nutrition and explore how best to apply individualised nutrition advice.
The project started from the understanding that we all have slight differences in our genetic blueprints. It is these differences that set us apart from each other.
Indeed, these tiny variations can determine both the effect nutrients have on our bodies and how we metabolise the food that we eat. This is one explanation, for example, for why some people have trouble managing their weight, or why some people appear to be able to consume huge amounts of energy-rich food without apparently any negative effect.
Personalised nutrition is about balancing the relationship between nutrients and genes and understanding that each one of us has unique dietary requirements. This is a two-way relationship; the nutrients we consume can affect the way our genes are expressed, while our genes influence how our bodies respond to these nutrients.
The ultimate goal for the scientists working on the FOOD4ME project is therefore to unravel this complex interaction between nutrients and genes. The next stage will be to develop tailored diets that complement a person's unique genetic profile. Not only will this optimise the health of the individual, but if disseminated widely enough, could also help prevent diseases such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and malnutrition.
The project is due for completion in March 2015.
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