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UMC Utrecht and TNO collaborate in research on food-borne factors in allergic and inflammatory diseases. My role is developing and applying methods to identify food-borne factors that influence the inflammatory state of our body. A good inflammatory balance is crucial for our health. On the one hand we need inflammatory processes, on the other hand they have to be controlled and suppressed. The inflammatory balances are determined by an interplay between intrinsic properties (such as our genome) and extrinsic factors. The most abundant exposure to extrinsic factors is through our food, but we actually know very little about which and how food-borne factors affect our immune system. The role of the intestinal microbiome and particularly its metabolites are of course very important, but on its turn, the intestinal microbial metabolome is also strongly influenced by what we eat. And also in this respect, we know very little about which factors do this in which way and how that influences immune functions. Together with my colleagues, I aim to elucidate how we can use diet as an intervention or to support interventions in immune health, to develop better diagnosis, patient stratification, and population and personalized management, therapy and prevention of inflammatory diseases.
Food allergy is a major cause of loss of health, loss of quality of life, and losses due to food recalls. This is mainly due to difficulties and hurdles that food business operators experience in providing meaningful information on allergen presence in food products and an inability of authorities to decide on and implement regulatory solutions. During past few years, we have become world leading with our vision and development of an approach for better protection of food allergy patients from unintended allergen presence in food. This is based on an innovative idea for combining entirely different disciplines (medical, toxicological, nutrition, dietetics, analytical) and stakeholders. Based on our work, a guideline for precautionary allergen labeling was developed and implemented in Australia and New Zealand. This guideline is now being followed internationally by more and more companies and governments, and in Europe, 8 countries are now using such an approach.
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