“The future of nutrition”: Industry leaders examine potential opportunities and pitfalls for the next five years
23 May 2023 --- Professionals, experts and scientists came together earlier this month to discuss the future of the industry at Vitafoods Europe’s “Future of Nutrition Summit” in Geneva, Switzerland. The summit covered trending industry topics such as personalized nutrition, the microbiome, wearable devices and more.
In this first part of NutritionInsight’s coverage of the event, we look at the future of personalized nutrition, healthy aging and the ethics surrounding these topics.
“I do want to age healthily and I do want to increase my lifespan,” says Mariette Abrams, the CEO and founder of Qina – an intelligence platform for personalized nutrition. Abrams presented at the summit and was a panel member during the discussion titled, “The Future is Personal: The new agenda for prevention, care and cure.”
“From my point of view, personalized nutrition isn’t about creating centenarians – it’s about increasing healthspan,” she highlights.
Leveling the playing field
During the panel discussion titled, “The Future is Personal: The new agenda for prevention, care and cure,” Dr. Berk discussed with scientists, professionals and experts how the industry can best move forward.
The panel members consisted of Abrams, who was joined by Dr. Evan Berk, the global director of nutritional sciences and innovation at Unilever, Nard Clabbers, a thought leader in personalized nutrition at the NCNC Nutrition Consultancy, Mariette Abrams, James Bauly, the chief business officer at Hologram Sciences and Dr. Susan Wopereis, the principal scientist for systems biology at TNO.
During the panel’s Q&A session, NutritionInsight asked the presenters what the industry and experts can do to ensure that the benefits of nutrition innovations, such as genomic testing, are available to as many people as possible.
Clabbers answered that the modern market is geared toward the “worried well,” – those who are already interested in their health and, he says, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“There’s something that’s called “clustered health behavior” and basically, if you’re doing one health behavior, you probably do more health behavior. So if you’re looking for health solutions, you’re probably doing more for your health.”
“For this reason, supplements may not be taken by people that need them – but it is a starting point,” he adds. “It is definitely a very relevant ethical issue.”
Bauly agrees, stating, “I think buried within that question is a question about accessibility.”
Bauly then discussed how many innovations that were only available to a few, through constant innovation, became available to many. One example is the home electronic blood pressure cuff that can now be purchased for around US$20.
“This is a great example of accessibility,” he affirmed.
Another easily attainable tool is questionnaires that are often readily available through companies and apps.
“Some of these tests and diagnostics and questionnaires are really powerful – because they’re accessible, they’re very easy to implement and you can get good information. Maybe it’s not multi-genomic (DNA profiling), but it is information that helps guide people to a better solution for themselves.”
Moreover, he adds that innovations like multi-genomic come in “baby steps” and that perhaps that is how we get these diagnostics and these types of things more affordable and more accessible to more people.
To centenarians and beyond
In his presentation, “The future of supplementation: A personalized approach,” Dr. Berk discussed how understanding a person’s genetic biomarkers could help to bolster positive health effects in some areas while overcoming negative health effects in others. To the point, one example he gave was that of the so-called super-agers.
Super-agers are defined as those who, through a combination of genetics, right nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, live 100 years or more. Moreover, he revealed that, thanks in part to nutrition and supplements, do so while having a cognitive age comparable to peers 20 to 30 years younger.
In effect, as the science of nutrition advances, the human lifespan and “healthspan” have the potential of expanding as well.
Looking at the long term
In her presentation titled, “Translating Foresights Into Long Term Strategies,” Agathe Danjou, the global evolution and disruption strategy director at Danone Specialized Nutrition, looked at the strategies regarding the fortification of nutrition systems in the light of disruptors.
The presentation included format upsets such as Netflix’s streaming platform and its effect on the Blockbuster video store chain or Uber’s effect on the taxicab industry. Danjou also looked at more exceptional and unforeseeable disruptors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of climate change, as factors that businesses may want to include in their long-term strategies.
Danjou further highlighted that, if the effects of climate change continue as projected, it could lead to further rises in inequality and malnutrition – which is already reaching high levels due to some of these factors.
Three prominent factors Danjou presented on, which are set to disrupt the industry in the near future, are what she terms “healthcare under pressure,” the “end of abundance” and “fighting inequalities.”
Moreover, “future shocks” and the “end of abundance” could influence the severity of inequality and the pressure placed on healthcare systems.
However, Danjou’s presentation maintained that, using foresight, companies can both mitigate and provide lasting solutions to these looming disruptors.
By William Bradford Nichols
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