12:28pm Tuesday 12 December 2017

University of Reading study aims to change the way we eat

Personalised nutrition is based on a person’s genetic make-up and their individual risk of developing health conditions, such as heart disease, associated with their dietary habits.

The Food4Me project is funded by the EU and Reading will be working with University College Dublin and other partners across the EU. Public dietary advice aims to encourage healthy eating but is the one-size-fits-all approach the most effective way of improving the nation’s health?

Studies have shown that people respond differently to various nutrients depending on their genes. For example, omega 3, the healthy fat in oily fish that can help protect against heart disease, is more beneficial to people with a particular genetic make-up.

At Reading Professor Julie Lovegrove, Deputy Director of the Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research, and her research team will assess the impact of delivering personalised nutrition to 160 volunteers. Alongside this study, Professor Judi Ellis and Dr Laurie Butler, from the Department of Psychology, will work with consumer groups to gauge public opinion on the idea of designing a diet that is truly individual.

“It’s very important that we know how people view personalised nutrition,” said Professor Lovegrove. “If you know you are at risk of, for example, cardiovascular disease, will this motivate you to change your diet? Having the ability to design a better diet for someone is one step towards reducing obesity and the diseases that it contributes to. Equally important is understanding what people want and if they think an individual diet is a good idea and would encourage them to change their dietary habits.”

Uniquely, the human study will be undertaken online, with the exchange of dietary advice and samples remotely. The volunteers will be offered differing levels of advice – tailored to individual physical characteristics and individual genetic make-up, as well as advice with no personalisation. The Reading research team will also assist in the development of the tools used to assess the dietary change.

Professor Mike Gibney, of the Institute of Food and Health, University College Dublin, who is co-ordinating the four-year project, said: “In employing this holistic approach we hope to draw together cutting-edge research and instigate a significant step forward in the field of personalised nutrition.”

Cardiovascular diseases, which include heart attacks, strokes and heart failure, are the cause of approximately 250,000 deaths each year in the UK alone, with similar incidence rates across Europe, and North America, and are becoming an increasing burden in rapidly developing nations with very large populations.

ENDS

For more information please contact Rona Cheeseman in the Reading press office on 0118 378 7388 or email r.cheeseman@reading.ac.uk


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