Application of new technologies and methods in nutrition research - the example of phenotypic flexibility. TNO coordinates the project and leads the workpackage 'Integration'.

NutriTech is a European Union funded research project (6 M€, 4 years) evaluating the use of cutting-edge analytical technologies and methods to comprehensively evaluate the diet-health relationship and critically assess their usefulness for the future of nutrition research and human well-being. Technologies include genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, laser scanning cytometry, NMR based lipoprotein profiling and advanced imaging by MRI/MRS. All methods will be applied in an integrated manner to quantify the effect of diet on "phenotypic flexibility", based on metabolic flexibility (the capacity for the organism to adapt fuel oxidation to fuel availability). Phenotypic flexibility will create a basis for a new generation of biomarkers that allow for the quantification of health instead of disease (progression), and this is of high value for the demonstration of health effects of diet and dietary ingredients.

Improving metabolic health

In the first year of the project, a cohort of moderately overweight men and women will receive a healthy diet with a 20% energy restriction for a 12 weeks period. This intervention will improve metabolic health. Extensive phenotyping will be performed at the start and end of the intervention, combining a range of emerging technologies with current methods. To assess phenotypic flexibility, the subjects will undergo 3 challenge tests, i.e. a glucose challenge, a high-fat challenge and an exercise challenge. The responses of many markers to the challenges will be measured. NutriTech will move beyond the state-of-the-art by applying integrated methods to assess the underlying and related cell biological and genetic mechanisms and multiple physiological processes of adaptation when homeostasis is challenged. After evaluation of the methods and technologies within this human intervention study, the resulting optimal methods will be validated in a number of existing cohorts against established endpoints.

Impact on nutrition research

NutriTech will disseminate the harmonized and integrated technologies on a global scale by a large academic network including 5 non-EU partners and by providing an integrated and standardized data storage and evaluation platform. The impact of NutriTech will be multifold and exploitation is crucial as major breakthroughs from our technology and research are expected. Overall, NutriTech will lay the foundations for successful integration of emerging technologies into nutrition research. NutriTech aligns with the TNO project PhenFlex, in which multiple food industries are involved and that is funded by these industries together with Dutch government. PhenFlex explores implementation of the new measurement methods to better demonstrate of health effects of food and facilitate development of new, healthy food.

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Dr. ir. Marjan van Erk

  • Healthy Living
  • Biomedical research
  • Life sciences
  • Systems Biology
  • Personalized Health