According to experts’ views, a digital platform that includes genetic testing, microbiome analysis, lifestyle assessments and actionable personalised recommendations might be the solution for meeting current and future consumers’ demands. This comes with some important challenges to focus on.
While many perspectives are availbale at this link, here is the commentary article by Carlotta Petti - nutrigenomics and nutrition consultant, scientific director at myDNA, and scientific advisor at Lykon.
SIÂN ASTLEY, Senior Researcher & Communications Manager, EuroFIR
KEITH ANTHONY GRIMALDI, Science director, Eurogenetica, Chieaf Science Office, DNAfit
MIKE HUGHES, Head of Research and Insight, FMCG Gurus
JONATHAN JONES, Chief Scientific Officer, Monteloeder
PHILIPP MERK, Managing Director, LOEWI
ANNA SUROWSKA, Nutritionist, Head of Business Development, REM Analytics
CRISTIANA PIANGIOLINO, Market Manger Nutraceutical dept., Roelmi HPC
SHAHEEN MAJEED, President – Worldwide, Sabinsa
Savio Industrial S.r.l. | Italia
With a deep interest in human biology, nutrition, health and disease, over the years I've built a solid academic background with a Master’s degree in Molecular Genetics, a PhD in Cancer Genetics and two additional postgraduate degrees in Public Health (Environmental) and Human Nutrition. As a Nutrition and Medical Scientist I've accumulated years of experience in leading research projects which resulted in several publications in prestigious scientific journals. I've also got extensive exposure to the fast-paced environment of the corporate world of Pharma and Medical Devices, thanks to which I've developed a strong business acumen and a keen attention to consumer needs. This mix of academic and industry background brought me to believe in Innovation and Personalisation as key tools to guide individual's choices for optimal health and well-being.
In the current global health scenario, the high prevalence of chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer, and, of course, COVID19, have a huge impact on our society. The traditional approach has been to treat symptoms as they occur, but this reactive approach not only decreases the chances of improving health, but also increases the financial burden on the healthcare system. The recent pandemic has highlighted the fact that the presence of chronic conditions can increase the risk for severe illness from COVID19. So, it has become clear that there is a need for a shift from a reactive to a proactive approach to health.
Nutrition and genetics are two of the main determinants of health, the others being lifestyle, environment, and access to medical care. Personalised Nutrition (PN) is a fundamental part of preventative health, as diet and nutrients can greatly influence health outcomes, together with physical activity and other lifestyle habits.
It is well established that genetics can contribute to over 60% of an individuals’ health and wellness showing how important it is to consider a person’s genetics in order to improve their health outcomes.
Experts agree that to achieve personalisation is fundamental to understand the interactions between the body at the molecular level and everything that surrounds the individual. Thanks to the ever-growing progress in research and technology, such deep knowledge is now becoming more and more available. Genetics plays a big role in personalisation as it has the potential to reveal a vast amount of actionable information for people who want to lead healthier lives. However, it is important to remember that while DNA is the blueprint for life and health, it does not necessarily determine the destiny of an individual. With behavioral and lifestyle changes individuals can circumvent many genetic predispositions. This concept is key in the areas of Nutrigenetics and Nutritional Genomics science, which aim at identifying the lifestyle factors that can modify the effect of certain genetic variations.
Considerable evidence has shown that a personalised approach to providing nutrition and health advice that includes disclosing genetic information is more likely to result in health behaviour change. Therefore it is not surprising to see that many companies in the PN space are now including DNA testing.
According to recent reports, over the past 12 months consumers have felt an increased need for health advise, as the pandemic has reminded the importance to look after our own health and wellbeing to age well and live longer. Consumers’ interest and demand for DNA data has also increased due to the COVID19 pandemic, as people realised that genetics influence the severity of the disease and it is a useful tool for managing our own health. Consumers now also demand personalisation as well as reputable and credible science-led advice on easily accessible platforms.
PERSONALISED NUTRITION IN THE COVID ERA: WHAT IS CHANGING
So, overall the pandemic has presented some opportunities for the current players in PN. Certainly, the increased consumer awareness on the importance of being proactive about their health is a prospect that should be embraced by small and big players. While PN used to appear as a niche service, it is now clear that the demand has expanded to the general population. The pandemic has led people to experience a new “lockdown” lifestyle which has affected people’s dietary and exercise habits. More than ever before, consumers felt that being in control of their nutrition and exercise is of foremost importance to keep the immune system strong and to age well. The reality of lockdowns has also provided challenges to companies offering health care services, as they had to switch to contact-free, online and digital format. Many PN companies have pioneered the use of digital health and now it is the time to exploit this opportunity even further.
According to experts’ views, a digital platform that includes genetic testing, microbiome analysis, lifestyle assessments and actionable personalised recommendations might be the solution for meeting current and future consumers’ demands. This comes with some important challenges to focus on. Firstly, privacy and data security are very important issues and companies need to ensure to adequately protect customers’ data. In addition, the overwhelming information from the DNA combined with further data such as microbiome and lifestyle create a great deal of complexity. As much as it is an attractive approach to include as much data as possible when providing personalized solutions, it is important to find the right compromise between data overload and being able to provide meaningful information. Selecting only the strongest scientific evidence and responding to consumers’ focused needs not only will result in a manageable set of data but it will also strengthen the consumer’s trust in a sensible scientific-based approach.
Lastly, in order to satisfy the increasing customers’ demands and enable best health outcomes, it is crucial that PN companies keep reaching out to consumers for an ongoing dialogue and invest in innovative technologies that can support and deliver the best service for the consumers.
There are talks that the COVID19 pandemic will transform into an endemic. The world of PN seems to be well prepared for the consumer’s shift towards wanting to ensure they can live healthier and longer lives. Collaboration between small and big PN companies will be the best strategy to achieve this common goal.
*Article previously published in Agro Food Industry Hi Tech, January/February 2021, vol. 32(1).
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