A majority of those surveyed from nine countries said they were receptive to the potential nutrigenomics, but wanted legal guarantees that genetic data would not be misused.
"There's an assumption in many communities that people are risk averse to food technologies such as GM and nutrigenomics,” said lead author Lynn Frewer, professor of Food & Society in the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University in the UK.
"But actually, we found the opposite. The people we questioned could really see the benefits of this approach but said they were yet to be convinced that it would be worth the risk of handing over data about their DNA.”
"Nutrigenomics has the potential to be the next big thing in our fight against lifestyle-linked diseases, particularly if it becomes available on the NHS [UK National Health Service]."
The study is part of the €9m EU-funded Food4Me project that is investigating the potential of nutrigenomics to deliver meaningful health outcomes to Europeans and others.
The study involved experts from universities in Ulster, Bradford, Porto and the Netherlands.
Nutrigenomics has been touted as having the ability to significantly improve health and reduce rates of chronic disease like obesity and type-2 diabetes.
The 9381 subjects from Germany, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, the UK, and Norway were asked of their nutriogenomic views in a questionnaire.
Those that had a greater level of nutrition knowledge and investment in self-care generally had more positive views of nutrigenomics and the results were consistent across the nine countries.
“The results suggest that transparent provision of information about potential benefits, and protection of consumers’ personal data is important for adoption, delivery of public health benefits, and commercialisation of personalised nutrition,” the researchers concluded.
Professor Frewer spoke of the technology’s great promise as well as the difficulty of regulating the sector. "The problem is that we are all unique so, for example, one woman's ability to metabolise sugar might be wildly different from another's, even though on the outside they are both 50 years old, of similar height and weight and exercise regularly.
"The difference is in their genes and with nutrigenomics we can start to delve down into these differences and tailor dietary plans for the individual. It's incredibly exciting but we need to get the regulations in place first if it is going to make an impact on public health."
Published October 21, 2014 (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110614)
Psychological Determinants of Consumer Acceptance of Personalised Nutrition in 9 European Countries.
Authors: Poínhos R, van der Lans IA, Rankin A, Fischer ARH, Bunting B, et al.