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Focus on underlying causes


More functional foods would in future seek to tackle the underlying causes of disease rather than homing in on individual conditions, according to Dutch research organisation TNO Quality of Life.

Speaking at a recent Leatherhead Food International conference on nutrigenomics, Ben van Ommen, head of nutrigenomics and nutritional systems biology at TNO, said that nutrigenomics has taught us that many chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's, arthritis and certain cancers stemmed from metabolic problems such as inflammation and oxidative stress. "These things should therefore be the target of functional foods; we should look at cause, not effect."

Nutrigenomics had also demonstrated that vast epidemiological studies were of limited value because they ironed out the differences between individuals which held the key to answering the big questions about diet and health, he added.

Mr Average - as defined through population studies - was of little value to researchers, said van Ommen. “Instead of smoothing over variations between individuals, we should ask ourselves why such differences exist in the first place and whether nutritional interventions should be more targeted.”

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