Healthy diet

How healthy is a particular food product or diet? TNO Food and Health focuses on finding the answers. To this end we develop methods that make it possible to measure the health effects of foods. Manufacturers can use the information to substantiate health claims, and the government can use it when communicating with the public on matters relating to food and health.

The answer to the question of how healthy a product or diet is turns out to be a complex one. Products contain many different substances, all of which have a particular effect on the body and on each other. Medicines, on the other hand, usually contain only one active ingredient. In foodstuffs, elements of the complex combination of substances have varied and subtle effects on the body. TNO develops new methods that can produce precise measurements of those effects. The methods are based on 'systems biology', which looks at biological systems (e.g. the human body) as a whole, as opposed to parts of systems. TNO can use new scientific insights to support individual manufacturers in product development and the scientific substantiation of health claims.

Measuring health

In order to determine whether something is healthy, it is important to be able assess human health easily and quickly. One way of assessing health is to look at the body's ability to cope with short-lived stress (e.g. the stress on the body resulting from a large meal or physical exertion). TNO develops measurement methods for determining how flexibly the human body can cope with such ´challenges´, or short bouts of stress. The more flexibly the body deals with this, the healthier the person. This line of research is known as the TNO Challenge Concept, and its aim is to develop groundbreaking measurement methods that can be used on a national and international scale, for example to test and substantiate health claims.

Overweight and bacteria

Within the broad field of food and health, TNO focuses on two highly relevant areas:

  • Overweight and metabolic complications
    Combating overweight is a major challenge in today's world. Overweight and the related 'metabolic complications', such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are an important area of research for TNO. We look at which foods can contribute to healthy weight, thereby preventing these complications.
  • Interaction between the human body and bacteria
    Our health depends partly on bacteria. Bacteria in the mouth and digestive tract, for example, have a significant effect on health. Research in this relatively new field has been given a major boost thanks to new techniques based on DNA analysis. At TNO we study the interaction between all bacteria and how it can be influenced (e.g. through dietary changes or by making use of specific good bacteria).

Biomedical Health