The Danish probiotics specialist is involved in several genomic research projects that explore the idea of matching nutritional input to genetic make-up to yield the most positive health results. "Over the last 10 years, we have done research on the genes of lactic acid bacteria and their interactions in either fermentors, used to produce cultures for example, for yoghurt production, or further into the human body," said Eric Johansen, PhD, associate vice president science at Chr Hansen. "It is not at all farfetched to imagine that within some years you could download your personal genotype onto your mobile phone and use it to scan the barcodes in the supermarket and make sure that you only buy what is healthy for precisely your body." Probiotic progress While the science backing probiotics has not yielded any approved health claims, research efforts by the likes of Chr Hansen, Lallemand and Valio as well as probiotic product manufacturers like Danone is building evidence and winning public support. Chr Hansen, which has investigated to varying degrees the nutritional merit of several hundred probiotic strains, is involved in several research projects around the globe and is devoting a greater proportion of its revenue to research and development in the area. Seven per cent of its "Innovation Organization" is working full time in the nutrigenomics field, it said. Johansen will discuss some of Hansen's findings at a Danish Biotechnological Society-organised functional foods and nutrigenomics conference in Denmark on Thursday. "I will talk about the genomics of probiotic microorganisms," he said. "At the moment we know that probiotic products work, but we need more research to find out exactly how. When we understand the bacterial genes better, it will help Chr Hansen develop more effective products and allow us humans to make better, individual food choices." He said blue-sky potential for probiotics, typically associated with gut health and immunity benefits, included weight management and boosting nutrition levels in the developing world. Its research was also yielding bottom-line cost efficiencies because by better understanding probiotic strains, production methods were able to be customised accordingly. "The results will give our customers the benefits of a more consistent and thereby cost-efficient production, and the global consumers are sure to get what they pay for." Consumer scepticism levels would fall as nutrigenomic principles delivered better results. "When they for instance buy a probiotic yoghurt, they can trust that the probiotic cells are capable of providing the health benefit mentioned on the label," he said. Unknown unknowns However experts at the recently held Nutrigenomics 2008 conference in Paris said foods matched to people's genotypes were 10-15 years away. The European Nutrigenomics Organisation (NuGO) said there are still many "unknown unknowns" to be found before nutrigenomic products are readily available on shelves. Nutrigenomics is defined as how food and ingested nutrients influence the genome (personalised nutrition). Nutrigenetics, or I-nutrition, is defined as how a person's genetic make-up affects a response to diet (individual nutrition).