Pivotal Assessment of the Effects of Bioactives on the Health and Wellbeing, from Human Genome to Food Industry – PATHWAY-27

Total Budget: € 8,000,000Pathway_logo_4C
Consortium: 25 partners
Countries: 12
Duration: 1 Feb 2013 – 31 Jan 2018


Scientific understanding of the role and mechanisms of bioactive compounds is fragmented. Research often addresses the theoretical possibility of health improvement effects rather than their real, practical use for everyday diets. To fulfil consumer demands for foods delivering appropriate health benefits, bioactives cannot be considered as discrete chemical compounds and research must focus on bioactive-enriched foods.

PATHWAY-27 is a research project carried out by a pan-European interdisciplinary team of 16 public and private research institutes and 9 high tech/food processing SMEs. It uniquely addresses the role and mechanisms of action of three bioactives: docosahexaenoic acid, β-glucan and anthocyanins. These have been chosen for their known/claimed effectiveness in reducing specific risk factors of metabolic syndrome (MS), enriching three different widely-consumed food matrices (dairy, bakery and egg products).


PATHWAY-27 will determine the impact of the bioactive-enriched foods (BEF) on physiologically-relevant endpoints related to MS risk and deliver a better understanding of the role and mechanisms of action of the selected bioactives and BEF. Parallel in vitro and in vivo studies and the use of advanced -omics techniques such as metabolomics and nuclear magnetic resonance will enable the selection of robust biomarkers to be used in the evaluation of BEF effectiveness.

Role of ILSI Europe

ILSI Europe, with input from its Functional Foods and Obesity and Diabetes Task Forces (see the Task Force webpages here and here for more detailed information), is leading the work package on ‘Guidelines for the Substantiation of Health Claims on Bioactive Enriched Foods’.

The main objectives of this work package are the preparation, publication and implementation of guidance documents that will inform and assist the food industry sector, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to produce bioactive-enriched foods (BEF) with supportive health claims according to the EU legislation. Uniquely, a set of integrated guidelines for the scientific community are describing the experimental work necessary to ensure the scientific substantiation of health claims. A second set of guidelines mainly targeted towards the food industry, including SMEs, provide a practical guide from product development to the submission of a health claim dossier. These guidance papers are not limited to the bioactives and food matrices selected in the project and so are of generic applicability. In addition, ILSI Europe is organising two workshops on 21-22 September 2017 with support from the European Commission Joint Research Centre (EC JRC) in Brussels, Belgium, which will discuss these guidance papers. Task force members are also collaborating as part of an industry platform to evaluate the practical implementation issues of the project.

Expected Impact

The final PATHWAY-27 deliverables will include the formulation and production of BEF with a demonstrated effect in MS dietary treatment. Best practices and guidelines for planning dietary interventions will be developed, as well as guidance for SMEs to produce health-promoting BEF and submit scientifically substantiated health claim dossiers. The expected project impact will be optimised across Europe by targeting dissemination events at industry (especially SMEs), consumers as well as science and technology stakeholders.


An industry survey identified the needs of the food industry in relation to establishing health claims for food products enriched with health promoting bioactives. Results of this survey were presented at the 9th International European Forum on System Dynamics and Innovation in Food Networks and at a workshop entitledWhy Nutrition and Health Claim Applications Fail – Common Shortcomings versus Best Practices’ (22 June 2015, Budapest, Hungary), organised before the International Scientific Conference on Probiotics and Prebiotics (IPC 2015). The results were published in Proceedings in System Dynamics and Innovation in Food Networks in 2015. Draft guidelines to inform and assist the food industry sector, especially SMEs, on how to produce BEF with supportive health claims according to the EU legislation were submitted to the EC as a first draft in November 2015. The first draft of the guidelines to inform the scientific community was submitted to the EC in July 2016. Both sets of guidelines are currently being updated and will be discussed at two back-to-back workshops organised by ILSI Europe and EC JRC on 21-22 September 2017 in Brussels.

Amongst a variety of developed BEF, buns, biscuits, milkshakes, combined desserts, omelettes and pancakes were selected to study the effects of the bioactives. Prior to human intervention studies, in vitro studies have been investigating the mechanisms of actions. Based on past EC projects coordinated by ILSI Europe (i.e. PASSCLAIM, FUFOSE) and ILSI Europe’s activities (e.g. PROCLAIM, Guidelines for the Design, Conduct and Reporting of Human Intervention Studies), the Functional Foods Task Force and the Obesity and Diabetes Task Force provided input on emerging fields and required updates to be considered by the scientific community. Task force members and relevant stakeholders are regularly consulted and will be invited to the workshops in September 2017 discussing the scientific and industry guidelines.

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