Developing tools and materials to scientifically substantiate health benefits of foods

Background

Specific components of the diet can bring benefits beyond those of basic nutrition. However, these beneficial effects need to be supported by scientific evidence before they can be communicated to consumers and others via health or nutrition claims and other relevant channels.

Objectives

The Functional Foods Task Force addresses issues related to functional benefits of foods and develops tools, such as criteria for the evaluation of markers, to define the scientific substantiation of benefits of foods for improvement and maintenance of health and wellness.

Impact

  • The task force presented the outcomes of the microbiome-related activities at several internationally recognised conferences, such as the IPC 2017 conference (International Scientific Conference for Probiotics and Prebiotics) on 20-22 June 2017 in Budapest, Hungary, and the IUFoST 2016 congress (18th World Congress of Food Science and Technology on 24 August 2016, Dublin, Ireland. Further, the task force will present at the IUNS 21st ICN Congress of Nutrition, Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 15-20 October 2017.
  • A key milestone of the Marker Validation Initiative, launched in 2011 in collaboration with eight of ILSI Europe’s task forces – see figure, was a workshop in June 2012 where key public-private stakeholders gathered to establish a preliminary list of consensus criteria for validation of markers (J. de Vries et al., 2013).
  • The task force explores the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to ‘Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Components of Food’ in a Concise Monograph (B. Halliwell, 2015).
  • The task force has contributed considerably to guidelines for designing, conducting and reporting studies for the substantiation of health claims.

What’s New

  • A new publication on ‘Improving Selection of Markers in Nutrition Research: Evaluation of Criteria Proposed by the ILSI Europe Marker Validation Initiative’ has been published in Nutrition Research Reviews (P. Calder et al., 2017).
  • A new activity on ‘Specific Guidelines for the Design and Conduct of Human Gut Microbiome Intervention Studies Relating to Foods’ has just been reviewed successfully.

For more detailed information, please contact Dr Bettina Schelkle at bschelkle@ilsieurope.be.

Task Force Members


*Scientific Advisor

Expert Groups

Oral and Systemic Health Resilience 

Objectives

Oral health is increasingly acknowledged as a major factor affecting quality of life. The impacts of poor oral hygiene go far beyond caries and hard tissue damage. Gingivitis, a disease involving gum inflammation, is almost universal and, in extreme cases, leads to periodontitis and bone (and subsequent tooth) loss. Mild periodontitis is common in adults, with severe periodontitis occurring in up to 20% of the population. In addition, there is increasing evidence of a link between oral and systemic health (e.g. type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases). It is unclear, however, whether this link is causal or because of a common mechanism related to chronic inflammation. It is known that a major factor in maintaining oral health is the resilience of the ecology of the oral system. The oral microbiota has an effect on oral health and it has also been postulated to affect systemic health. The main objective is to study the oral microbiome as a key factor in the prevalence and progression of gingivitis and periodontitis and systemic health parameters.

Activity

As a first step, this activity will define and characterise oral health, its maintenance and resilience. A scoping review will identify knowledge gaps and main influences on oral health homeostasis as well as ascertaining the host factors that influence oral health, and a mechanistic article will focus on experimental gingivitis. Secondly, the link between oral and systemic health will be assessed. The most relevant factors within each sub-group (i.e. microbiome, host oral cavity, systemic effects) will be evaluated. Thirdly, the link between oral and systemic health will be drawn in a final manuscript.

Expected Output

This activity will provide new insights into the evidence relating to oral and systemic health and will allow oral-systemic interactions to be distinguished from gut-systemic interactions. This will help provide scientific evidence for subsequent clinical confirmation of health claims related to both oral and systemic health.

Identifying Preferred Approaches for Quantifying the Impact of Modifying Nutrient Intakes 

Objectives

There are widespread, well-established, population-based recommendations for modifying diets to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases. This information allows the food industry to change and optimise the composition of foods in line with this purpose. The aim of this activity is to identify and illustrate practical models that could be used as standardised methods for estimating the quality of life and the health impacts resulting from changes in the nutritional composition of foods.

Activity

This expert group is reviewing methodologies currently used to estimate the impact of nutrition interventions on health and quality of life. Quantitative results expressing quality of life measures will be used to illustrate the implications of the identified approaches. Recommendations on how to apply selected models will be provided.

Criteria for preferred modelling approaches were discussed with relevant stakeholders at a workshop on ‘Identifying Preferred Approaches for Quantifying the Health and Economic Impact of Modifying Nutrient Intakes’ on 6-7 April 2017, in Brussels, Belgium. One of the main conclusions from the workshop was that a preferred model may not exist.

The complete outcomes of the workshop will be summarized in a publication to provide recommendations for scientifically valid and transparent through accessible and practical selected model(s). These recommendations could be used by, for instance, food industry and policymakers to make informed decisions for action on modifying nutrient intakes, to estimate the potential health and economic benefits as well as help achieving global dietary recommendations.

Expected Output

A better understanding, consensus and standardisation of models applied to quantify the health impact of changes in food composition on populations will lead to more consistency in the approaches commonly used to assess, monitor, report, compare and communicate these impacts.

Exploring the Role of the Major Gut Microbiota Clusters on Nutritional and Functional Benefits of Nutrients and Non-nutrients

In collaboration with the Prebiotics Task Force

Objectives

The gut microbiota is involved in the metabolism and bio-availability of a large number of nutrients and non-nutrients. Therefore, it is an important variable to take into account when considering the management of obesity, inflammation and the metabolic syndrome. The aim of this activity was to collect and review existing data on different gut microbiota clusters in relation to their metabolic effects on selected nutrients and non-nutrients.

Activity

This expert group has systematically reviewed the available data on the effect of the gut microbiota on a selection of dietary substrates (including nutrients and non-nutrients) and also reviewed methodologies used and knowledge of the microbial pathways.

Expected Output

The expert group divided the activity into two parts, addressing each one in a separate manuscript:

  • A first paper has systematically collected and reviewed existing data on the effects of gastrointestinal microbiota on the metabolism of nutrients and non-nutrients;
  • A second paper has reviewed what is known about the gut microbiota and the microbial pathways associated with the metabolism of nutrients and non-nutrients and also reviewed methodologies that can be applied to study gut microbial pathways of metabolism.

A stakeholder workshop organised in collaboration with the Obesity and Diabetes Task Force was held on 3-4 December 2015 in Brussels, Belgium, to refine the conclusions drawn in the draft manuscripts. The outcomes of this expert group were presented at the ILSI Global Annual Meeting on 25 January 2016, St. Petersburg, US, the APC Microbiome Workshop on 23 February 2016, Brussels, Belgium, IPC 2016 conference (International Scientific Conference for Probiotics and Prebiotics) on 21-23 June 2016 in Budapest, Hungary. and IUFoST 2016 congress (18th World Congress of Food Science and Technology) on 21-25 August 2016, Dublin, Ireland. The main conclusions of both manuscripts will also be presented at the ILSI Global session on ‘The Human Microbiome: Sharing Our Bodies’ at the IUNS 21st International Congress of Nutrition (15-20 October 2017, Buenos Aires, Argentina). A follow-up activity on ‘Microbiome Human Study Research Guidance’ will be launched soon.

Marker Validation Initiative: Developing Consensus on Criteria to Evaluate Markers in Nutrition Research

Objectives

One of the main reasons why EFSA rejects many health claim dossiers is the lack of supporting evidence based on validated markers to prove the claimed potential health effects.

The aim of this multidisciplinary activity is to identify:

  • Criteria for validation of markers in nutrition research;
  • Validated markers for use in different fields of nutrition research.

Past Activities 

A key milestone of this activity (steps 1 and 2, see figure) was a workshop organised in Lisbon, Portugal, in June 2012. Key public-private stakeholders gathered to establish a preliminary list of consensus criteria, available in the literature and in different fields of nutrition research (J. de Vries et al., 2013).

The latest activity was a translation phase between the results of the workshop and the development of a tool to guide nutrition scientists in assessing the validity and relevance of markers when designing nutrition studies. An expert group has refined and applied the consensus criteria in different areas of nutrition research (P.Calder et al, 2017).

Output

The aim of the Marker Validation Initiative is to provide more granularity to the different criteria with which markers are assessed. In addition, an evidence-based grading system was introduced which should allow effective weighting of the relative importance of individual criteria, thanks to a semi-quantitative score. This system could provide information about the usefulness/validity of the current markers for a given experimental situation. The same set of information could be used as primary guidelines for the development of new markers. ILSI Europe is currently reviewing the Marker Validation Initiative and its progress to refine its aims and goals ahead of the final step.

Expert Group Members

Oral and Systemic Health Resilience

Identifying Preferred Approaches for Quantifying the Impact of Modifying Nutrient Intakes

Exploring the Role of the Major Gut Microbiota Clusters on Nutritional and Functional Benefits of Nutrients and Non-nutrients

Marker Validation Initiative: Developing Consensus on Criteria to Evaluate Markers in Nutrition Research

*   Dr Jean-Michel Antoine, a former representative of Danone, was also an expert group member
** Observer

 

Poster

ILSI Europe Marker Initiative: What Makes a Marker a Valid Marker?

Publications

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