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 will write a new activity proposal on the topic that it is currently choosing, the intention being to start the activity by the end of 2019. The task force is also planning to participate in the joint ILSI Europe task force activity on ‘Gut-Brain Axis’.

What’s New

The activity on ‘The evidence base for targeted protein recommendations’ was launched in February 2019. It strives to understand the evidence base for protein intake in physically active and inactive adults and elderly population in relation to muscle health and will focus on the impact of protein quality, quantity and intake pattern.

Objectives

The Health Benefits Assessment of 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 Kirsi Forsberg at kforsberg@ilsieurope.be.

Task Force Members


*Scientific Advisor

Expert Groups

Review of the Evidence Base for Population Targeted Protein Intake for Muscle Health – NEW

Objectives
Current dietary recommendations for protein intake established by major authorities are based on the amount of protein required to maintain nitrogen balance and are not different for elderly and physically active. However, research in these target groups suggests that factors such as protein quality, composition and protein intake pattern as well as the absolute level of protein consumed are important determinants for health benefits such as building and maintenance of muscle mass and strength. Several reviews and meta-analyses have been published in recent years, yet, a systematic review that compares the evidence base for protein intake across muscle health outcomes in different population groups is missing.

Activity
A systematic review of the evidence base for protein intake is conducted in young adults, midlife, and elderly, both physically active and inactive by focusing on muscle health and by considering protein quality, quantity, and intake patterns. The outcome will add a perspective on optimum protein intake across potentially vulnerable target groups regarding muscle health and will identify knowledge gaps. Among others the following questions will be addressed:

What is the evidence for beneficial effects of protein intakes on muscle health in adults (18-35y), midlife (35-70y), and elderly (70+), both physically active and inactive?

  • The impact of protein type/quality (plant or animal protein)?
  • The impact of protein quantity?
  • The impact of intake patterns (timing, quantity and frequency)?

What are the optimum protein intakes for muscle health in elderly and physically active? Are they different and how do they compare against the protein intake recommendations from EFSA?

Expected Output
A systematic review of the literature for protein intake in relation to muscle health will provide evidence-based understanding on whether more targeted protein recommendations would be beneficial in certain population groups. It will provide knowledge on what characterizes optimal protein intake with regards to protein quality, quantity and intake pattern. There is additionally an environmental component as plant proteins have a lower environmental footprint compared to animal proteins; the need to identify sustainable and healthy diets is important since consumers are increasingly turning towards plant protein sources.

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

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 – Completed

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.

Expert Group Members

Review of the Evidence Base for Population Targeted Protein Intake for Muscle Health – NEW

Specific Guidelines for the Design and Conduct of Human Gut Microbiome Intervention Studies Relating to Food

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 – Completed

Poster

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

Publications

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