From the Vitafoods Live! vault

Can the rise of medical foods tackle ‘unsustainable’ public healthcare costs?


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Dr Paul Clayton: “We can’t afford the burdens of disease we have already so the projected increases lead to bankruptcy.”
Dr Paul Clayton: “We can’t afford the burdens of disease we have already so the projected increases lead to bankruptcy.”

Related tags Medicine

Pharmaceutical-reliant public healthcare systems are unsustainably expensive and governments around the world know it, but can medical foods go part way to breaching the gap and delivering real savings? Panellists at a recent NutraIngredients-hosted debate concluded that yes they can…

“The current medical-style system that we are labouring under is absolutely ruinous,”​ said Dr Paul Clayton from Oxford University's Institute of Food Brain & Behaviour and the University of Pecs in Hungary at the Vitafoods Live debate filmed earlier this summer in Geneva.

Health and wellness economics

Dr Clayton added: “Economists are looking at the types of savings that could be made and the improved quality of healthcare that could be made by switching to a food-based system…the onus is on us to prove that case; we actually have now a lot of the data to do so.”

“The main economists are now starting to look at our data and eventually will drag the politicians and even the regulators into a new age of medicine and it won’t be very much to do with pharmaceuticals.”

Watch below to see the full debate.

Nutrition strategies

Catherine Caulfield, nutrition consultant member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging & Preventative Medicine and MD of European consultancy, Health management, agreed the statistics were piling up against the medical-oriented health care model.

“Another statistic which may be surprising for us in modern-day society in the western world is 300,000 maternal mortalities in the western world as a whole, and in fact many of these mortalities are just occurring as a result of things like hypertension or infection and possibly things that could be avoided as a result of the right individual nutrition strategies.”

With rates of cancer, type-2 diabetes, obesity and other ailments all on the rise, Dr Clayton said thinking about healthcare needed a complete rethink, urging a shift to a system where healthcare was delivered, “not through a healthcare professional, not through a pharmacy, not at the point of prescription, but at your supermarket checkout counters.”

“We can’t afford the burdens of disease we have already so the projected increases lead to bankruptcy.”

Medical devices

Maikel Hendriks, CEO of Dutch firm Medical Brands, a company which makes cranberry supplements that market urinary tract infection (UTI) benefits as backed under European Union medical devices laws, said he has seen sales rocket in the short time the products have featured on European markets.

The ‘i-say’ products he markets have drawn criticism for claim-making not permitted under the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR), but he says the products are scientifically backed and delivering real benefits to hundreds of thousands of women afflicted with UTI.

He said EU medical devices products that had been pulled recently did not denigrate the premise but was rather down to food supplements trying to shift status.

“Some large manufacturers and brands have been pulled…” ​Hendriks said, noting the data for one did not necessarily correspond to the other.

“So you have to do science, you have to do clinical data, you have to show that the product works, and that you can treat and prevent the diseases.”


Hendriks said his company attended a food and supplement-focused show like Vitafoods because no show existed for ‘self-care’ products like i-say.

“Show me it and I will go to it. If you want to make a self-care medical device, where would I buy my ingredients? I can buy food grade ingredients, I can buy pharma grade ingredients, I can buy cosmetics grade ingredients but there is no self-care medical devices ingredients.”

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