The future for the business of nutrigenomics

What does the future hold? With advances in science, better understanding from various regulatory authorities all over the world and with a concerted effort from stakeholders from industry, interested consumer groups and governmental representatives, the future seems filled with possibilities for the development of successful business models in nutrigenomics. Beyond the corporate bottom line, nutrigenomics can make significant improvements to the health and well-being of the consumer.

What might the future look like? A preliminary study of nutrigenomics in clinical practice was published recently in the Nutrition Journal (Arkadanios et al., 2007). In this study, patients on a clinical weight management program were offered a nutrigenomic analysis as part of their treatment regime. Results of the genetic analysis led to modifications to a platform dietary program, such as addition of folic acid when the MTHFR C677T variation was identified. When compared against a matched, untested population over an extended period, the tested population achieved better outcomes in terms of maintaining body mass index reductions over a one-year period as well as greater reductions in blood glucose levels. Analysis of additional biomarkers is currently underway, however, initial trends indicate that the tested population had greater results in terms of homocysteine reduction and LDL cholesterol reductions. While the study population was relatively small - 50 tested subjects versus 43 untested subjects - this paper is the first documentation of nutrigenomics in practice and demonstrates positive results from the use of genetic information in developing dietary guidelines for individuals.

Nutrigenomics is a business with significant challenges and hurdles to overcome, but there is widespread recognition in the public, in the academic world and in the industrial world that the use of genetics to guide dietary and lifestyle choices is going to happen, indeed, the business of nutrigenomics already is happening as reported in the study above. Questions remain about the execution of different aspects of business models, how businesses can expand to accommodate the population at large, how quickly the science will mature and how regulations can be developed to protect the consumer but not impede the industry. The answer: cooperation between stakeholders is absolutely essential. All the relevant stakeholders must engage in open dialogue about the issues so that the ultimate promise of nutrigenomics - the promotion of health for the public through greater understanding of the genetic response to nutrients - can be achieved.

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