“The genie is out of the bottle”: No going back to one-size-fits-all nutrition recommendations, says Nutrigenomix exec
11 Oct 2019 --- The personalized nutrition genie is out of the bottle, but barriers remain in bringing it to the marketplace. This is according to Dr. Ahmed El-Sohemy, President and Chief Science Officer at Nutrigenomix. Speaking to NutritionInsight at the NewtritionX Summit 2019, held within Anuga in Cologne, Germany, he highlights how science continues to unlock how genetic differences are at the core of how we respond to different foods and nutrients. The next step will be overcoming barriers to bring personalized nutrition and genetic testing to the masses.
“In the field of nutrigenomics, we use genetics to understand why some people respond differently than others to the same foods, beverages and supplements they consume,” says Dr. El-Sohemy. His company, Nutrigenomix, offers genetic tests for general health as well as athletic performance and fertility. It’s grounded in the idea that one-size-fits-all nutrition recommendations are inefficient and often ineffective.
genetic makeup could alter gut bacteria, which in turn impacts how they digest food – in the case of this study, starch. It found that people with a high number of copies of a gene called AMY1 correlated strongly with a certain profile of gut and mouth bacteria. Now, medical professionals could take a patient’s AMY1 gene copy number into account when giving personalized dietary advice, the researchers note.Earlier this year, a Cornell University study found that
Yet despite a host of clinical studies demonstrating the hardline science behind nutrigenomics, barriers remain in bringing it to the masses. Dr. El-Sohemy particularly highlights awareness, price and confidence in the science.
Barriers in mainstreaming nutrigenomics
Awareness of the space is growing, and this can only mean that it will reach the mainstream, Dr. El-Sohemy notes. Yet awareness needs to continue growing for this to happen.
A Vitafoods Europe survey found last year that industry interest in personalized genetic testing and nutrigenomics is indeed growing, with 14 percent of respondents saying nutrigenomics would be a key trend over the coming year – up from 8 percent the previous year.
“As consumer awareness continues to grow for genetic testing and personalized nutrition, it will become more mainstream. It’s not really something that we can view as a passing fad. The genie is out of the bottle; there isn’t a way of going back to one size fits all.”
Now, it’s just a matter of how that personalized nutrition information is going to be delivered in the marketplace. This brings in considerations around price points – which continue to be high.
However, Dr. El-Sohemy highlights how consumers spend hundreds of dollars on supplements a month. Genetic testing could streamline spending patterns and health outcomes by determining which supplements are really needed by the individual. This could be a factor in encouraging early adopters toward genetic testing.
In this line, Dr. Lisa Ryan, an Irish researcher from the Department of Natural Sciences at Galway-Mayo (GMIT) in Ireland, also highlighted the potential that technological advances, such as wearable nutrition and microbiota mapping tools, hold for the nutrition industry.
The science also presents a barrier. “There is a lot of evidence out there, both supporting the application of genetic testing, but also casting doubt on the benefits of it. It’s really important to understand the science and the strengths and limitations of it to make it more acceptable on a wider scale,” he says.
The science is, however, expanding. Nutrigenomix’s current panel has 45 genetic markers, but they will soon by upgrading to a panel for 75 markers. “That’s a reflection of the growth in the science. In the past two years, there have been a number of papers showing the additional markers that we can use. We vet the science and review it critically. Importantly, we also contribute to the science.”
Bringing personalized nutrition to the market is also complicated by the absence of sound nutrition experts delineating nutritional advice. Dr. Simone Frey is trying to tackle this issue, as well as calling for more qualified nutritionists to enter the social media space, which is currently dominated by self-proclaimed nutrition gurus. Dr. Frey was also speaking at the NewtritionX conference in Cologne.
Meanwhile, Michael Gusko, Managing Director of GoodMills Innovation, highlighted at NewtritionX how the personalized nutrition space creates ample opportunity for ingredients companies manufacturing gut health ingredients.
Also spotlighted during Anuga 2019 were cannabidiol (CBD)-infused offerings, disruptive protein drinks, lab-grown meat cultivated in outer space, bakery products inspired by millenials and the fusing of beauty from within and on-the-go formats. The full interview with Gusko can be seen here.
By Laxmi Haigh
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