Overcoming nutrigenomic obstacles

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrigenomics, Research

A Dutch researcher has found the world is not yet ready for nutrigenomics, with many unanswered questions existing around an idea that promises to match nutrition with genetics.

The researcher, Amber Ronteltap, from the Agricultural Economics Research Institute (LEI) at Wageningen University and Research Centre, found consumers are still uncertain about nutrigenomics, both in terms of what it is and how it works.

Many obstacles need to be overcome before consumers actively sought out products based on nutrigenomic concepts, the researchers found.

The research was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NOW) along with the Netherlands Genomics Initiative.

These included:

  • What is nutrigenomics?
  • Within what time frame will it be usable?
  • How is acceptance by consumers determined?

Ronteltap interviewed 29 experts from trade and industry, civil organisations, government, media and science in compiling her study. From the information gleaned from these sources she then invented future scenarios to present to the public.

Acceptance

Models were constructed that highlighted the number of factors that would have to be in order before consumers accepted nutrigenomics.

Consumers were most concerned about any kind of scheme that may force them to register their genome somewhere and also demanded proven efficacy along with consumption time convenience.

“The general public also wants to see clear scientific agreement about the usefulness of the possibilities provided by nutrigenomics,”​ Ronteltap said, adding there was much to be done to convince consumers about nutrigenomics.

A gulf existed between the wishes of consumers and the expectations of experts, she said.

NOW noted that nutrigenomics could “contribute to public health and disease prevention by providing individuals with advice on specific adaptations in their nutrient regime.”

It added: “This form of personalised nutrition joins the bandwagon of broader marketing trends to develop products more tailored to the individual.”

Attracting interest

Nutrigenomics is a field that has attracted the attentions of many food ingredient suppliers as well as food makers, although products are as yet, scarce.

Danish probiotics, flavours, enzymes and phytochemical specialist, Chr Hansen, set aside €30m of its 2007/08 budget to develop research and development in the area with partners and other groups.

In June, Chr Hansen announced that it had teamed up with researchers from Denmark and Japan in an effort understand the genetic make-up of bacteria and see whether this knowledge can be used to improve probiotic food products.

The scientists are using bioinformatics, using complicated mathematical models and statistics, to analyse the bacteria.

Related topics: Suppliers, Markets and Trends

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