Success Story - RISTOMED
Paving the way for active ageing
Europeans are living longer than ever before, but they are also leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles. RISTOMED (New E-Services for a dietary approach to the elderly) sought to improve living conditions for the ageing population by combining healthy eating habits, new technologies and nutraceuticals (food products that provide medical or health benefits).
‘RISTOMED encourages a healthier way of life and introduces what I refer to as “successful ageing” – managing the healthy food intake of elderly people in order to increase quality of life and to prevent diseases related to the ageing process,’ says Fabio Buccolini, a project manager at Vox Net, the Italy-based SME responsible for coordinating the two-year project that was completed in April 2011.
RISTOMED, which was run by a consortium of eight partners divided equally among SMEs and RTD performers from Italy, France, Germany and Portugal, received the majority of its funding (approximately €1 million) through the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) 'Research for SMEs' scheme.
Mr Buccolini considers that the interaction between researchers (universities) and industrial partners (SMEs, biotechnology companies) was a crucial aspect of RISTOMED, taking into account the collaborative efforts required from ICT experts, nutritionists, immunologists, gastroenterologists, geriatric clinicians and experts in marketing and cosmetics. This synergistic approach, which brought all stakeholders together in delivering creative and novel solutions for the prevention of three age-related diseases (inflammation, oxidative stress and gut microbiota), was one of the project’s innovations.
Putting the elderly diet on the EU agenda
By 2050, the number of people aged 65 and above is expected to have grown by 70% and the number of people aged over 80 by 170%, according to Health-EU, the public health portal of the EU. The key challenge is to promote healthy and active ageing for European citizens. ‘The research consortium carried out studies and clinical trials to define the requirements of a proper diet and its impact on the three areas influencing the ageing process,’ explains Mr Buccolini. ‘Results showed that diet is pivotal in the management, treatment and prevention of these three areas.’ A poor diet can trigger premature ageing and dysfunctions that curtail an individual’s quality of life and autonomy.
On the strength of the research outcomes, RISTOMED aimed to improve the diets of elderly people by attempting to control and balance nutrients and nutraceutical compounds, with a view to increasing quality of life and helping to prevent diseases related to the ageing process.
The need for more personalised diets is an urgent requirement for EU healthcare systems, and particularly for ageing and elderly people. The majority of nutraceutical SMEs have limited access to the information required to identify the nutritional impact of their product. What is more, nutraceuticals are difficult to customise to the needs of a specific market user such as an elderly person, and it is a slow growth, fragmented market.
Integrated web solution for a longer, healthier life
To meet these challenges, Vox Net developed an eHealth service in the form of a web software platform that integrates nutraceuticals – purposely designed and supplied to ageing and elderly people – into biotech/ICT strategies for coping with the complexity of specific nutritional requirements.
‘The platform is key to both the project and the three actors it tailors to: doctors or nutritionists, healthcare organisations and the elderly which are its end users,’ emphasises Mr Buccolini. ‘It is an instrument to support people’s eating and nutrition activities, as well as to ultimately change their eating habits. It also provides general information on how to eat properly in order to stay or become fit.’ He states that the user-friendly web platform acts as a go-between for elderly people and dieticians.
The online solution delivers recipes and procedures containing nutraceuticals and probiotics (‘friendly bacteria’ which is available to consumers mainly in the form of dietary supplements and foods) specifically catered to elderly people and the organisations that work with them.
The key added value of RISTOMED is the eHealth service which enables the SME participants to penetrate the market with the production of innovative and personalised diet models. The competitiveness of the SME participants is expected to increase by bringing nutraceuticals to the market as well as by introducing the integrated web solution to better manage the dietary and nutritional needs of elderly people with the intention of preventing the three age-related diseases.
In addition, a final conference held in Rome in 2011 highlighted the following RISTOMED achievements and outcomes:
According to Mr Buccolini, the partners are currently engaged in technology transfer activities, and are ready to demonstrate the project’s competitive advantage and to bring its added value to the market given the right financial support.