New technology links diet to genetic markers

July 1, 2013, University of Auckland

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers looking into links between nutrition and genetics have developed technologies that will revolutionise how food companies validate new products.

The team is a collaboration of scientists from around New Zealand, led by The University of Auckland's world expert in nutrigenetics and , Professor Lynn Ferguson.

"This new technology ushers in a new phase of sensitivity in studies, negating a need for testing a wide range of endpoints, which is both expensive and time-consuming," says Professor Ferguson, who is programme leader of the very successful collaborative group, Nutrigenomics New Zealand.

"One of the most useful aspects of these technologies is that the studies can be hypothesis free," she says. "This means that could use such an approach to discover what their food products or diets are actually doing, which may not be what they were designed to be doing, and which could lead to insights into the mechanism of action of a modified diet."

For the food industry, an immediate application of this technology, is in developing and testing new food products in line with new standards for health claims just published for New Zealand and Australia.

The new food standard regulations published in May are a guide to 'establishing food-health relationships for general health claims.

"For the first time New Zealand has clear regulations for food product health claims and Nutrigenomics NZ has the expertise to interpret these for the industry," says Professor Ferguson.

Links between inflammation and diet are studied by the group based at The University of Auckland together with AgResearch and Plant and Food Research. The initial focus for the programme is on for Crohn's disease and other - about 15,000 people are affected by these disorders in New Zealand.

Inflammation can cause significant health problems and lead to diseases such as Alzheimers, Crohn's disease, some cancers, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes and other auto-immune diseases.

"It is important to find ways for sufferers of inflammation to reduce these levels," says Dr Ferguson who is editor of a new book called 'Nutrigenomics and Nutrigenetics in Functional Foods and Personalized Nutrition'.

Dr Ferguson whose paper 'Foodomics to study efficacy of human dietary interventions' is one of five chapters contributed by New Zealand authors to the new book, says that New Zealand is now a major player in functional foods research.

The new book brings together for the first time, information on some of these valuable new technologies. It uses both approaches - nutrigenomic (the effects of diet on gene expression) and nutrigenetic (matching diet to genotype) - to describe how they might be applied to the food industry and to health professions.

"New discoveries in this field will enable foods to be tailored to genotype and enable sensitive monitoring of gene expression changes resulting from -gene interactions - both for human and animal foods," says Professor Ferguson.

In order to keep their dialogue with industry open and active, Nutrigenomics New Zealand is holding a one-day "science-meets-industry" workshop on Friday 23rd August.

The focus of this event will be to hear what industry is wanting, and in turn to show industry how Nutrigenomics New Zealand can assist them in practical, affordable terms with regard to obtaining high-level, science-based health claims.

"Things will move very rapidly, now that the regulations have been finalised", says Professor Ferguson. "It is crucial that industry and science collaborate, in order to provide the best possible products to consumers, and in so doing to grow New Zealand's economy both nationally and internationally".

Explore further: Diet change works swiftly in reducing risk

Related Stories

Diet change works swiftly in reducing risk

January 14, 2013
A study by Lynnette Ferguson, Professor of Nutrition at The University of Auckland, has shown that a change in diet can be effective in reducing inflammation over a period of just six weeks in healthy New Zealanders.

The cost of obesity examined

December 11, 2012
Researchers from The University of Auckland have announced the results of a recent study showing that overweight and obesity in New Zealand costs the country between NZ$722 million and NZ$849 million a year in health care ...

Examining food labelling across Europe

June 11, 2013
The FLABEL project ('Food Labelling to Advance to Better Education for Life') was the first EU-funded research programme to examine nutrition labelling when it was launched three years ago. Now having ended, has it made an ...

Recommended for you

Two new breast cancer genes emerge from Lynch syndrome gene study

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian have identified two new breast cancer genes. Having one of the genes—MSH6 and PMS2—approximately doubles a woman's risk of developing breast ...

Can mice really mirror humans when it comes to cancer?

January 18, 2018
A new Michigan State University study is helping to answer a pressing question among scientists of just how close mice are to people when it comes to researching cancer.

A centuries-old math equation used to solve a modern-day genetics challenge

January 18, 2018
Researchers developed a new mathematical tool to validate and improve methods used by medical professionals to interpret results from clinical genetic tests. The work was published this month in Genetics in Medicine.

Peers' genes may help friends stay in school, new study finds

January 18, 2018
While there's scientific evidence to suggest that your genes have something to do with how far you'll go in school, new research by a team from Stanford and elsewhere says the DNA of your classmates also plays a role.

Epigenetics study helps focus search for autism risk factors

January 16, 2018
Scientists have long tried to pin down the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Recent studies have expanded the search for genetic links from identifying genes toward epigenetics, the study of factors that control gene expression ...

Group recreates DNA of man who died in 1827 despite having no body to work with

January 16, 2018
An international team of researchers led by a group with deCODE Genetics, a biopharmaceutical company in Iceland, has partly recreated the DNA of a man who died in 1827, despite having no body to take tissue samples from. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.