When the human genome sequence was launched in 2000, it introduced the possibility of personalisation in health care. Such personalisation can be applied to nutrition, a key health determinant, to create a diet tailored specifically for an individual, according to their individual physical and genetic make-up. Food4Me is a new, EU (FP7) funded project investigating the potential of this personalised nutrition.
Studies have shown that individuals respond differently to various nutrients. For example, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, the ‘healthy fats’ found in oily fish that are believed to protect against cardiovascular disease, have been found to be more beneficial in individuals with a particular genetic make-up (Ferguson et al., 2010). The point is, we are all different, and so the way we respond to our diet is also different. Such research suggests that blanket public dietary advice is not the most effective technique for improving public health.
Rather than applying overarching dietary guidance to the whole population, personalised nutrition sets the individual apart to consider their specific physical and genetic characteristics. This practice has been touted as the future of nutrition with significant potential to improve public health. The early promise has not quite lived up to this expectation however, and despite the efforts of numerous companies there has been limited success.
Food4Me will investigate the possibility of designing better diets based on a person’s genetic make-up. A renowned group of experts will examine the application of nutrigenomic research (studies of the effect of food on gene expression) to personalised nutrition. How can we use our understanding of food and our genes to design a better, healthier and more individual diet?
Food4Me, a four year project coordinated by Professor Mike Gibney of the Institute of Food and Health, University College Dublin (UCD), will consider all aspects of personalised nutrition; from investigating consumer understanding to producing technologies for implementation and investigating gene expression in response to diet. “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.
A major component of the study is a large multi-centre 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. Over a thousand subjects will be recruited from eight EU countries to take part in the study. Research to determine the effectiveness of personalised nutrition and develop appropriate technologies for its implementation will be supported by investigation of the public’s needs and perceptions.
All results will be consolidated in the design of business and value creation models for the development, production and distribution of personalised foods. These will be tested throughout the project in order to consider the feasibility of future personalised nutrition approaches. Ethical and legal issues will also be assessed and will help shape the framework for the outcomes of the consumer studies, business models and human intervention research.
The data gathered in the project will feed into the development of services to deliver personalised advice on food choice.
A webinar of Professor Mike Gibney introducing the project is available here.
Visit the Food4Me website or join us on Facebook.
For more information about Food4Me click here or contact Sofia Valleley at firstname.lastname@example.org or +32 (0) 486 67 39 42.
Ferguson, J., F., Phillips, C., M., McMonagle, J., Perez-Martinez, P., Shaw, D., I., Lovegrove, J., A., Helal, O., Defoort., C., Gielstad, I., M., F., Drevon, C., A., Blaak, E., E., Saris, W., H., M., Leszczynska-Golabek, I., Kiec-Wilk, B., Riserus, U., Karlstrom, B., Lopez-Miranda, J. and Roche, H., M. NOS3 gene polymorphisms are associated with risk markes of cardiovascular disease, and interact with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Atherosclerosis. 2010; 211(2):539-544.