"We are what we eat," the old expression goes, but rapidly changing lifestyles and increasing consumer demand for healthy foods have warranted the development of innovative food products known as 'functional foods'. These specifically include so-called gut-health foods that affect our intestinal tract. This is the primary site where food meets our body, and which has been colonised since birth by microbes that contribute to our health. The challenge behind the GutImpact project has been to address the development of foods that contribute to our intestinal health and may serve to combat diseases on a preventive basis.
Functional foods have been identified with 'natural medicines', and their positive influence is frequently acknowledged in both scientific and non-scientific publications. Scientists may be about to serve up a new-era dish in which food will be the next generation's medicine. An EU specific support action on GutHealth foods has been funded to increase public awareness of functional foods' potential and impact on human intestinal health.
FUNCTIONAL FOODS TAKE ACTION
The latest advances in genomics and biotechnology with regards to health have paved the way for innovative research actions in the development of new foods. These are optimised to enhance the most beneficial properties of products designed to improve human health. The increasing demand for tailor-made functional foods to address health issues, such as the ones targeting intestinal health, has made it imperative to intensify efforts in this field.
The GutImpact specific support action has been successful in attracting EU funding to identify and work towards bridging the knowledge gaps associated with functional foods. These are reflected in the range of consumers 'producers' and authorities' perspectives towards new and existing foods that target our gut. The consortium intends to provide means of bridging these gaps by constructing a virtual technology road map to facilitate communication between the public and private sectors and consumers. This will lay the foundations for the submission of a position paper for a Technology Platform focusing on gut-health research under the 7th Framework Programme.
A RECIPE FOR COORDINATION
Coordination and implementation of the project is managed by the Finnish company Valio Ltd. Valio is bringing together key players in the gut-health field and setting up a dialogue between industry, scientists and other stakeholders. It occupies a share of the international market for probiotics and has extensive experience in similar knowledge sharing actions targeting medical practitioners, consumers, etc. Discussion platform meetings are organised in cooperation with Wageningen University (WU) in the Netherlands. WU's participation is an asset due to its extensive involvement in gut-health issues and its extensive network of contacts with key scientists and organisations.
The Lactic Acid Bacteria Industrial Platform (LABIP), a European Economic Association that represents 40 food industries (including SMEs), will strengthen the links between industry and consumers. Their participation is critical since it conveys the views of the industrial sector currently involved in gut health research. LABIP and GutImpact partners' concerted efforts are directed towards preparing a positioning paper for a technology platform on gut-health functional foods.
LABIP's efforts are supported by Advanced Analytical Technologies (AAT), an Italian spin-off company which uses molecular biology techniques to study human and animal microflora. AAT is 'the voice' of the SMEs and other industries involved in gut-health products and addresses their needs. Existing and new knowledge will be made available through a virtual technology platform dedicated to gut-health food innovations and impact.
GutImpact targets healthy consumers, consumer organisations and patients but also the scientific community, industrial sector and decision makers. The project increases public awareness of functional foods by providing information, sharing knowledge and improving scientific understanding. Improving consumers' knowledge is the key to success for the functional foods industry. Unravelling their methods of action and their full potential for improving human health will significantly influence healthcare costs through prevention and treatment.
List of Partners
- Valio, R&D/Dairy Innovations (Finland)
- Lactic Acid Bacteria Industrial Platform, LABIP, European Economical Association (The Netherlands)
- Wageningen University, (The Netherlands)
- Advanced Analytical Technologies, AAT, Piacenza (Italy)
- Full title:
- Innovations and impact of gut health foods: a virtual technology platform
- Contract n°:
- Project co-ordinator:
- Tiina Mattila-Sandholm,
- EC Scientific Officer:
- Isabelle de Froidmont-Görtz,
- EU contribution:
- € 582,000
- Specific Support Action