Over the past decade, we have heard a lot about studying genetics with a focus on the genetic architecture of disease — bottom line, how we hopefully can eliminate diseases through this science and turn around the trend in health and wellness .
Are you ready for what’s next?
No, it’s not about turning on or off certain genes in the human body to thwart obesity or diabetes or another disease (although that will happen soon); instead, look for advances in the clinical translation of these disease states, by individual, into everyday food and beverage choices and consumption.
What that realistically means is that genetics will be used to identify taste, smell and texture based on each individual’s taste preferences and then combined with their health needs. Then it really gets exciting, as this “recipe” will allow for the preparation of customized foods that are truly nutraceuticals. I met Dr. Stephen DeFelice, who is credited with coining the phrase nutraceutical, over 25 years ago when he was attempting to get food companies and food retailers to understand the power that food had to change the course of America’s then growing health maladies. It would not be till May 2004 that the Human Genome Project’s DNA sequence would be published, and clear the way for DeFelice’s vision of truly life-changing foods (instead of the food and beverages we today describe as nutraceuticals that have merely added dietary supplements, nutrients or vitamins with the hope for the fountain of youth).
I recall vividly the commercials for glucosamine and chondroitin supplements which aired on my WOR radio show — and the scores of callers with questions and hopes that fed the continuing rise in the supplements’ sales, according to the Nutrition Business Journal, to over $800 million in 2010; even though in 2006 an NIH-funded clinical trial found results that were underwhelming at best.
I’m not making light of the importance our industry has placed on the naturally occurring health benefits from eating, for example, more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, antioxidants, omega-3’s, or disease-fighting compounds from spices including cinnamon and turmeric – it is the first step in educating and empowering shoppers to understand the connection between the foods we consume and our bodies.
Supermarkets have come a long way, adding retail and corporate dietitians and pharmacists who on a daily basis are helping shoppers plan healthier lifestyles.
But now comes the challenge.
Imagine how our supermarkets will have to change operationally, physically and experientially with foods and beverages that can deliver regenerative nutrition, enhanced metabolic health, longer lifespan, and are targeted to ward off genetically predetermined diseases that are personalized to an individual’s taste buds. Will we need private consultation rooms where a dietitian sits with your DNA map and “custom” orders recipes (or, say prescriptions?) based on your DNA taste and health preferences and needs? The shopper replenishes those foods and beverages online and only shops in-store for the other items that are truly for enjoyment, or enhance their diet with the other foods that have naturally occurring nutrient benefits, or household items?
The next wave of nutraceuticals will certainly be the most important.
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