The food giant and the university have been working together for several years in the field of metabonomics, which seeks to understand and quantify how metabolism is affected by dietary inputs. It forms part of Nestlé's work in the area of personalised nutrition, or I-nutrition.
Speaking to NutraIngredients.com, Dr. Sunil Kochher, a senior scientist at Nestlé Research Center, said the use of probiotics and their ability affect weight management had become the central focus of the project which will run for another five years at least.
“We are highly focused on this now and very interested in further exploring the affects of microbiata on metabolism,” he said. “Every body has a different gut microflora – that is the starting point. We are not ready yet to answer the question of how to best respond to that but we are making significant progress.”
The affects on metabolic syndrome were also being monitored. Metabolic syndrome – or syndrome X – relates to a number of diseases typically associated with being overweight or obese such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Kochher said Nestlé used proprietary probiotic strains in past, present and future trials but other inputs were being looked at such as prebiotics and carbohydrates.
“There is a large amount of work going on now,” he said. “In vitro, in vivo trials. There is a very large, ongoing trial in various hospitals around Europe that goes well beyond typical epidemiological methods. We are finding out what it happening at the molecular level with state-of-the-art technology.”
That trial was due to be completed by year’s end, he said.
In an animal study conducted last year and reported in the journal, Molecular Systems Biology, researchers used a nutrimetabonomics approach to track the metabolic changes in the liver, blood, urine, and faeces of mice.
Supplementation with the probiotics led to changes in host intestinal microflora, and these changes were found to subsequently affect energy, lipid and amino acid metabolism.
Such results were encouraging but Kochher said it would be 10 years at least before clinically-backed products tailored to individual genetic make-ups could be purchased on-market.
“We are learning all the time about the potential of this area,” he said. “About the right kind of strains, what they do in the body, how they interact with each other, with other inputs. There is so much to learn in this area.”