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.

Upcoming

The task force is working on a new activity proposal on plant protein in context of muscle synthesis to maximise functionality.

What’s New

The activity on ‘Specific Guidelines for the Design and Conduct of Human Gut Microbiome Intervention Studies Relating to Foods’ has been launched. It aims to provide guidance on the design and conduct of human intervention studies in the context of the gut microbiome.

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. They investigate factors and compounds for health to ensure health claims can meet regulatory standards.

Impact

  • The task force heavily contributes to the emerging field of human microbiome research. The recent publication on ‘Gut Microbiota Functions: Metabolism of Nutrients and Other Food Components’ (I. Rowland et al., 2017) alone has been downloaded over 3000 times in the first few months of it being online. In addition, the results were presented at a scientific session on ‘Gut Barrier Function and Microbial Metabolism’ at IPC 2016 and at the recent session on ‘Human Microbiome and Health’ at IUFoST 2016 organised in collaboration with the Prebiotics and Probiotics Task Forces.
  • Their latest publication by P.C. Calder et al., 2017 has been viewed over 400 times in the first months.
  • The task force was key in driving ILSI Europe’s Marker Initiative.
  • The task force explored 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).

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

Task Force Members


*Scientific Advisor, now retired from Max-Rubner Institute

Expert Groups

Specific Guidelines for the Design and Conduct of Human Gut Microbiome Intervention Studies Relating to Foods – NEW

Objectives

Human microbiome research is a rapidly evolving research area. At the same time, recent advances in DNA-sequencing technologies and systems biology approaches are applied to the field. Hence, there is a need for researchers to carefully consider specific factors in the design and execution of human microbiome studies. Guidelines to support such studies will help to make future trials more comparable and reproducible. They will also describe the limitations, confounding factors and benefits of dietary human intervention studies involving the gut microbiome, in particular in relation to molecular mechanism of action.

Activity

The expert group intends to carry out an initial survey of relevant original research papers describing studies that investigate:

  • The effects of the gastrointestinal microbiota/microbiome on the metabolism and the bioavailability of nutrients and non-nutrients (building on the work of the expert group that explored the role of the gut microbiota on nutritional and functional benefits of nutrients and non-nutrients);
  • The effects of diet on the microbiota/microbiome composition and activity; and
  • The effects of changes of the microbiota/microbiome (following dietary intervention) on human health. This survey will facilitate the identification of the range as well as the strengths and weaknesses of currently reported methodologies. Furthermore, existing reviews and guidance documents will be taken into consideration to identify and elaborate on the specifics that exist for human dietary intervention studies and microbiota related outcomes.

Expected Output

The guidelines will help to understand and advance the field based on scientific results from human intervention studies that are comparable and reproducible, and therefore, allow longer-term development for dietary recommendations built on solid science regarding diet-gut microbiota/microbiome interactions. Furthermore, the guidelines will improve quality of intervention studies used within health claims dossiers that link changes of the microbiome to physiological or clinical outcomes.

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 of the expert group 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 economic and 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 economics and health. 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 summarised 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.

Output

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

  • A first 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 (I. Rowland et al., 2017);
  • A second paper has systematically collected and reviewed existing data on ‘The Effects of Gastrointestinal Microbiota on the Metabolism of Nutrients and Non-Nutrients’ (submitted for publication).

A stakeholder workshop organised in collaboration with the Prebiotics and Obesity & 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, the IPC 2016 conference (International Scientific Conference for Probiotics and Prebiotics) on 21-23 June 2016 in Budapest, Hungary, and the 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). The new activity on ‘Specific Guidelines for the Design and Conduct of Human Gut Microbiome Intervention Studies Relating to Foods’ is building on the outcomes of this expert group.

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

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 was to identify:

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

Activity 

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.C. Calder et al., 2017).

Output

The aim of the Marker Validation Initiative was to provide more granularity to the different criteria with which markers are assessed. In addition, an evidence-based grading system was introduced that allows effective weighting of the relative importance of individual criteria, thanks to a semi-quantitative score. This system provides information about the usefulness/validity of the current markers for a given experimental situation. The same set of information can be used as primary guidelines for the development of new markers. Acknowledging that the final step of the Marker Validation Initiative, i.e. a database of markers of health, requires a more global approach, ILSI Europe is working on a (Bio-)Markers Transversal Activity to be launched in late 2017.

Expert Group Members

Specific Guidelines for the Design and Conduct of Human Gut Microbiome Intervention Studies Relating to Foods – NEW

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 – COMPLETED

*   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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