Major topics in nutrition and health are moving closer together. Research comprises olfaction, intestinal metagenomics, and personalized nutrition.
The molecular mechanisms of olfactory food perception are being investigated to understand food preferences and food-related desires. About 2–3 % of all human genes code for olfactory receptors.
Research aims to understand how chemical signatures of food are translated into receptor activation patterns and then into decision-making signals. In the future, interdisciplinary teams, including experimental psychologists, will work together to open new routes to product innovation and to translate this knowledge into personalized science-based nutrition.
The human intestinal microbiome is the entity of all microorganisms in the gut. The human body contains over ten times more microbial cells than human cells. A dietary change leads to changes in the intestinal flora which implies that every individual carries his/her personal set of microorganisms in the gut. The intestinal microbiome has a strong impact on health and is assumed to affect diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.
The ability to modulate the microbiota through diet might be much more effective than using antibiotics. This is based on the experience of treating Clostridium infections through fectal transplantations instead of an antibiotic regimen, which has proven very effective in the last few years. Therefore, scientists investigate the composition and the role of the intestinal microbiome, e.g., with novel sequencing technologies and quantitative metagenomics. The aim is to develop synthetic microbiomes as next generation therapies.
Vitamin D – Example for Health-Beneficial Food
Fat-soluble Vitamin D is present in very few foods, but naturally produced when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It is needed for calcium absorption and bone mineralization. An inadequate vitamin D status, which is an issue in both the industrialized and developing world, may be a risk factor for diseases like cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, and specific types of cancer.
Understanding its absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME) is important for the development of functional food products.
Isolated Human Taste Cells
Designing health-beneficial food remains a challenge, because masking of unpleasant characteristics of the added ingredients is often complicated. Bitter masking is especially complicated as the majority of bitter compounds activate more than one bitter receptor. Amino acids and minerals are examples for bitter-tasting ingredients.
B.R.A.I.N., Zwingenberg, Germany, developed a platform technology based on human taste cells where isolated human taste cells from lingual epithelium biopsy samples were immortalized to develop different screen lines. The cells carry 15 of 25 known bitter receptors as well as receptors for salicin, fatty acids, menthol, and the satiety hormone oxytocin. The technology will be used to establish screenable cell lines for all basic taste qualities to enable the discovery of novel food ingredients. These will help to reduce salt, sugar or act as bitter maskers.
Reducing fat and carbohydrates affects not only taste and texture but also sensory features. New processes include fat fractionation. Here protein micro-particulation and multi-component matrix texturization allow production of low-fat food without compromising texture and taste. Microbial exo-polysaccharides are texture optimization tools to stabilize a complex food matrix in the creaming reaction.
Nutritional recommendations vary according to age, activity and health status. The eldery, for example, need a different supply of micronutrients and vitamins than infants or teenagers. Personalized nutrition is seen as one possibility to bridge the gap between food and health and to develop novel business concepts.
Novel customized product solutions include prophylactic therapy for specific target groups or electronic equipment for monitoring nutrition and health status.
- Food and Nutrition – Trends and Strategies for Innovation,
Bayrisches Staatsministerium für Wirtschaft, Infrastruktur, Verkehr und Technologie,
Bayern Innovativ GmbH, Special Report International Conference Forum Life Science 2013.