Food selections to suit health profiles

Articles
February 24, 2009

Food selections to suit health profiles

A new glimpse at how refined personal diets could become in the future—to suit individuals’ health profiles—shows the extent to which today’s blanket recommendations could miss the mark. For example, omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, but different healthy people react very differently to these acids and require different amounts, Bruce J. German, professor and food chemist at the University of California-Davis, told attendees at the American Association of the Advancement of Science last week. The food industry is centered on products today, which means profits hinge on lowering the cost of production, he said, according to a CNN account. “No one’s getting healthy in this model. It’s clear we have to move toward a consumer-driven food supply,” he urged his fellow scientists. Once metabolism is better understood, people will be able to better personalize their diets to meet their own health needs, he added Another presenter, Dr. M. Eric Gershwin, professor of medicine at UC-Davis, described the immune system as “a complicated multi-organ, chemical and genetic nightmare” that will likely not be improved much just by eating certain foods, CNN reported. Yet science presses on with one goal being for people to know which foods are best suited to their unique health profiles. It is one thing, the coverage said, to warn people with conditions such as diabetes away from certain foods. It is far more complicated to advise a generally healthy person on foods that will prevent future disease, the coverage noted.

A new glimpse at how refined personal diets could become in the future—to suit individuals’ health profiles—shows the extent to which today’s blanket recommendations could miss the mark.  For example, omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, but different healthy people react very differently to these acids and require different amounts, Bruce J. German, professor and food chemist at the University of California-Davis, told attendees at the American Association of the Advancement of Science last week.

The food industry is centered on products today, which means profits hinge on lowering the cost of production, he said, according to a CNN account. “No one’s getting healthy in this model. It’s clear we have to move toward a consumer-driven food supply,” he urged his fellow scientists.  Once metabolism is better understood, people will be able to better personalize their diets to meet their own health needs, he added

Another presenter, Dr. M. Eric Gershwin, professor of medicine at UC-Davis, described the immune system as “a complicated multi-organ, chemical and genetic nightmare” that will likely not be improved much just by eating certain foods, CNN reported.

Yet science presses on with one goal being for people to know which foods are best suited to their unique health profiles. It is one thing, the coverage said, to warn people with conditions such as diabetes away from certain foods. It is far more complicated to advise a generally healthy person on foods that will prevent future disease, the coverage noted.

This insight helps explain why the promise of functional foods has yet to excite consumers and the categories in which they exist, feels SupermarketGuru.com. Since the first FDA-approved claim that consumption of oat bran may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease 13 years ago, supermarkets haven’t taken functional foods to the bank. Product limitations are one reason: The Benecol and Take Control brands of cholesterol-lowering margarine contain plant sterols, which partially block its absorption from the intestine, yet they have the same fat and calorie content as regular margarines, and they are costlier, wrote Dr. Simeon Margolis, a professor of medicine and biological chemistry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, on Yahoo! Health.

We’re excited by the prospect of customized food profiles. As the nation’s population ages, it will be wonderful to be able to use food to extend high-quality life for years, and possibly lessen our dependence on a costly and overburdened health care system. These food scientists are on the right track. In our opinion, food manufacturers that get behind this could win not only through innovation, but by making it known they’re putting consumers front and center in a much more meaningful area than their shopping and savings practices.