Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The future of nutrition research

There is little question that nutrition provides the foundation of health and wellbeing and that research into better nutrition is central to enabling a population live healthier, more productive, and longer lives.

With this perspective in mind, the American Society for Nutrition assembled a working group of leading nutrition thought leaders to identify a list of nutritional research areas that required greater or further analysis and prioritization.

In a symposium entitled "The Future of Nutrition Research" on Tuesday at Experimental Biology 2012 (#EB2012), these thought leaders outlined what was generally agreed as the six areas of nutrition research that deserved attention.
The areas of the research comprised of the following:

  1. Understand variability in responses to diet and food—a broad area that includes research in epigenetics, proteomics, and metabolomics.
  2. Understand the nutritional impact on healthy growth, development, and reproduction
  3. The role of nutrition in health maintenance—with emphasis in determining how nutrition and fitness play into optimal health of the body (immune, cognitive, skeletal, and muscular function) over a lifespan.
  4. The role of nutrition in medical management—how nutritional factors influence disease and response to therapy.
  5. Nutrition-related behaviors—identifying how food choices can affect or become imprinted on the brain.
  6. Understanding the food supply environment—investigating the “farm to fork” influence on diet and physical activity and how biotech and nanotech can play a role.

The group also identified five tools in need of further development of which would be required to overcome barriers of nutrition research. The following tools, they said, would enhance the efficiency of research in each of the six areas listed above.
  1. Databases—for collection and assessment of food intake data.
  2. Biomarkers—needed to improve tracking and monitoring of food intake and response to treatments.
  3. Omics—biomarkers that provide data on how genes interact with nutrients, their metabolites, and proteins.
  4. Bioinformatics—application of computer science in biology and medicine.
  5. Cost-benefit analysis—tools to calculate and compare costs of interventions.

The multi-disciplinary working group included John Milner, of the National Cancer Institute, Dennis Bier of Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Houston, Catherine Ross of Penn State University, Z. Li of University of California, Los Angeles, David Klurfeld, of USDA, J Mein of Monsanto, and Pat Stover of Cornell University. Each of the individuals of the group presented about their respective areas.