The PREVENTOMICS European project will develop, from this November and for 3 years, personalized plans for nutrition and lifestyle habits to improve the health of people, based on individual traits such as physical and behavioural traits, lifestyle, genotype, preferences and physical condition. The personal health plans, which will consider consumers’ needs and requirements, will reach the recipients in the form of behavioural prompts, thanks to the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools.
PREVENTOMICS (Empowering consumers to PREVENT diet-related diseases through OMICS sciences) could be applicable in the future to the personalization of any type of treatment or health condition and represents a unique service, given that “it can be validated for specific diseases or for well-defined life situations where the combination of genetic, biological, nutritional and psychological factors is relevant”, explains Josep Mª del Bas, director of the Nutrition and Health unit of Eurecat, the technology centre coordinating the consortium.
It is expected that PREVENTOMICS, which has 19 European partners from 7 different countries, will conclude with the introduction of six new products on the market, both in the application of new technologies to improve health (e-business) and in the form of food products intended for human consumption.
To achieve this, the project will adopt a comprehensive approach in exploiting the potential of omics techniques, especially metabolomics, to know the state of metabolic health and will focus on techniques to induce a change in behaviour in people in order to deliver preventive personalized nutrition tools, accessible to everyone, that promote changes in current habits and achieve the improvement of personal health in a sustained and lasting manner.
One of the innovations of the project, as explained by the scientific coordinator of the biotechnology area of Eurecat and technical coordinator of the project, Antoni Caimari, “is that it is based on a unique integration of genetic, metabolic, nutritional and psychological data”, with the application of computational modelling techniques of the metabolism, which will enable the evaluation and characterization of the most relevant physiological processes—the sustained lack of control of which can lead to the onset of different diseases, and enable the modulation of these deviations to prevent their development”.
At the social level, the research carried out by PREVENTOMICS will help to sustain new healthy lifestyle habits, increase user satisfaction and confidence in a more personalized diet and promote greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet as a healthy dietary pattern in line with the recommendations of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The project involves innovations at the research level, in interoperability and use of open source data to feed future research; at the social level, in the search for sustainable solutions with more precise information; in terms of health, by harnessing the capabilities of Information and Communications Technology to manage data from different sources; and finally, at the business level, offering more personalized services in line with the growing demand from society.
To demonstrate the potential for personalization at different levels of the food value chain, PREVENTOMICS will be validated in three different scenarios using three different companies carrying out intervention studies with both healthy volunteers and volunteers with abdominal obesity who are at moderate risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease.
Evolution of personalized nutrition
In recent years, “the expectations around personalized nutrition have grown, but there haven’t been sufficiently precise tools nor sufficient understanding of which individual variables are affected or what the behavioural barriers are that prevent the individual from acquiring healthier habits”, explains Caimari.
It is estimated that the personalized nutrition market will grow from 81 billion euros in 2015 to 110.5 billion euros in 2020, due to the increase in key trends in society, such as the growing concern for health, a better understanding of the physical condition, the ageing of the population, the increase in disposable income, changes in lifestyle and growth in emerging markets.
In this regard, experts agree that the food industry should provide solutions at the individual level, in fields such as nutraceutical and health, sports nutrition, food services or mHealth.
Aside from Eurecat, the following is a list of the 19 partners of PREVENTOMICS: ALDI, Alimentòmica, Onmi; Simple Feast; METEDA; Carinsa and Practio; and the research centres and universities Università di Parma, University of Southampton, Institute of Communication and Computer Systems, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Leitat, Wageningen University, Uniwersytet Jagiellonski in Krakow and Universiteit Maastricht, as well as the osteoarthritis patients association Osteoarthritis Foundation International (OAFI), the Spanish Consumer Organization (OCU) and the Spanish Association for Standardization (UNE).