UK Nutrition Research
The UK Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) published a report this month, finding industry ‘must be part of the solution’ to change what people eat. The report explains partnership between nutrition research and the nutraceutical and functional food industry is ‘vital’, ‘not least because this sector is key to ensuring research advances are translated into healthier products’ even though partnership with the nutraceutical industry is ‘much less developed than interactions with the pharmaceutical industry’, it continues. It considers a lack of ‘an agreed code of practice’ the obstacle to ‘open, transparent and effective’ collaboration between academic researchers and the food industry. The report recognises nutrition plays a crucial role in the promotion of health and ‘perturbed nutrition exacerbates many infectious and chronic non-communicable diseases’—it recognises the need to maximise the opportunities ‘to translate findings from nutrition science’ to products and services that improve public health.
This is especially pertinent as NHS England announces plans to scrap ‘ineffective’ and ‘low value’ treatments, including omega-3, lutein, and antioxidant supplements. The plans aim to reduce National Health Service (NHS) spending by £200 million a year, instructing prescribers to ‘not initiate omega-3 fatty acids for any new patient’ and ‘deprescribe omega-3 fatty acids in all patients’ as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) cited a ‘lack of robust evidence of clinical effectiveness’. This is despite the well-documented health benefits of omega-3s and their 14 EFSA approved health claims. The British Medical Association (BMA) commented they could not support recommendations to ‘cut prescriptions for effective medicines’.
Fermented food sales are gathering pace, particularly in the United States, where kombucha sales grew 41 percent to $534 million in 2016. Many fermented foods originate in Europe—kefir, Kvass, sauerkraut—but Mintel data shows Europe is slow to react to this trend. More food and drink products with a fermented claim were launched in France in 2017 than any other European country, while dairy was the most popular category across the Union. As European consumers educate themselves on the health benefits of fermented foods, the trend garners attention, and European manufacturers are taking inspiration from Asia, with kimchi and tempeh. However, European food manufacturers aren’t responding fast enough to consumer demand—this is a new market ready for expansion.
Another market ready for growth is the Spanish supplement market. A significant percentage of Spanish participants in a dietary study ‘do not meet the recommended intakes of zinc, vitamin A and vitamin E’, according to researchers from the University of Grenada and other Spanish institutions. Data from Anthropometry, Intake and Energy Balance in Spain (ANIBES) showed 83 percent of Spanish people tested were deficient in zinc, and 80 percent lacked vitamin E. 56 percent failed to meet the European recommendation for vitamin C, and a further 74 percent lacked vitamin A. Significant findings with significant potential for the nutraceutical and functional food industry!