The ELFI (Empowerment, Lifestyle and Food, Interaction) project, which recently won funding of €30,000 from EIT Food, brings together personalised nutrition expert Nard Clabbers, global healthcare firm Roche Diagnostics, and API aggregator Digi.me with funding and support from knowledge institute TNO.
Currently in their planning and trialling phase, the teams are working to make personalised nutrition the priority preventative approach to diabetes by prescribing nutrition interventions to prediabetic patients, initially via a GP in The Hague, The Netherlands.
Clabbers worked at the personalised nutrition startup Happ when the project was first formed but is now an independent consultant after the startup paused business. He explains how this project is the epitome of his vision for the future of healthcare.
“Currently, if you want to use a personalised approach to health, you have to install like five different apps and track your own data. At Happ we wanted to make that simpler and we wanted to make sure there was a low threshold to enter the personalised nutrition space.
“One of the areas where we wanted to apply that, was the medical area, and then we started thinking about where is the logical area for nutritional interventions, and diabetes is the elephant in the room.
“In Holland alone, about one million people have diabetes, but then a further one million people have prediabetes.”
He adds: “There are two important aspects to why personalised nutrition should be successful in this sector: Firstly, there’s a specific problem so there’s a motivation for patients to change meaning there’s a clear goal; Second, there is data that can be fed back to the patients which shows the how their change in behaviour is having an effect on their health providing further motivation.
“Personalised nutrition is much more interesting in this area of prediabetes, than in the general population, because it’s much harder for people to be motivated if their aim is just to ‘be healthier’, plus when they have a health issue the potential impact of the intervention is much bigger.”
The project partners are currently on the lookout for another personalised nutrition startup firm, like Happ, to work within this project to provide the personalised nutrition and lifestyle expertise.
In the testing phase, which they hope to start by the summer, the GP in The Hague will utilise Roche Diagnostics tests to analyse patients’ complete blood lipid profile and HbA1C level (the average blood glucose level for the last two to three months) via just one drop of blood, with results in just five minutes.
From these results, the GP can see if the patient is prediabetic and if they are he will refer them to a personalised nutrition plan.
The aim is to get 30-50 prediabetic patients using this service to see the health benefits that can be attained, before expanding further.
Syanni Kristalijn, chapter lead, medical value, at Roche Diagnostics, says this move towards preventative health strategies is her driving force.
“In the Netherlands especially, there’s really a focus on prevention and health, and I think that has creates the momentum needed for a project like this," she says.
“This approach has the potential to improve population health, improve patient experience, and reduce the cost to healthcare systems across the globe, which is in line with the triple aim of healthcare.
"What makes this proposition so unique is the systematic approach to identify patients with prediabetes, and enabling them to change their behaviour in a positive and sustainable way, and improve their health by doing so.
“The whole success of a project like this stands or falls with the ability to create and maintain behavioural change so we are looking for an approach that provides personalised advice and guidance which involves nutrition as well as lifestyle and takes into account the person’s cultural and personal requirements.”