The authors have called on scientific standard bearers, such as the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in the US and the international standards body, Codex Alimentarius Commission to establish reference values for bioactives.
“If an authoritative body like IOM or Codex would establish these intake values, then those key bioactives would take their rightful place within national and international nutrition policy and strengthen public health initiatives,” said Dr James Griffiths, vice president, scientific and international affairs, at Swiss-based Council for Responsible Nutrition-International (CRN-I), and co-author of the journal article.
Bioactives such as omega-3s have a robust body of evidence supporting their health benefits, especially in reducing the risk of heart disease.
Substantial scientific evidence also exists demonstrating the benefits of other bioactives, such as isoflavones isolated from plants and animals.
However, the report commented on the lack of an industry-standard evaluative process that informs how strong the science is behind bioactive’s benefits or the quantitative amounts needed to achieve these beneficial health effects.
Efforts have been made to evaluate these compounds. The National Institutes of Health in the US recently lead a workshop designed to develop daily values for nutrients, highlighting the lack of these bioactives increased risk of chronic disease. A final report is expected soon.
Adapting the reference intake process
The report also highlighted the challenge of determining whether or how the dietary reference intake process could be adapted to nutrients such as omega-3 forms eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
“That will require consideration of important research gaps, including biomarker validation studies, determining safe and effective upper and lower nutrient intake levels, nutrient interactions with other substances in foods, and determination of nutrient requirements across age groups,” the authors noted.
The report concluded with the need for a framework approach that was able to differentiate and apply a tiered approach to the bioactive compound’s evaluation.
“Each bioactive is unique, and the scientific underpinnings to the strength (breadth and depth) of scientific data vary.
“Some bioactives benefit from many decades of research in support of a purported reduction in disease risk. Others are overnight sensations, coming from traditional medicines in developing countries and regions.”
If nutrients were to be considered beneficial, the scientific community needed to start asking more logical and direct questions linking observational data to mechanisms of action.
“To that end, we need evidence-based science to come to the rescue of this apparent dichotomy of reason within our scientific community.”
Source: European Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, DOI 10.1007/s00394-016-1195-z
“Nutrient reference value: non‑communicable disease endpoints—a conference report.”
Authors: J. R. Lupton, J. B. Blumberg, M. L’Abbe, M. LeDoux, H. B. Rice, C. von Schacky, A. Yaktine, J. C. Griffiths.