Research into food and health

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research provides a comprehensive platform for monitoring the impact of food on human health at various levels. This research is based on laboratory work, studying important components and processes within the digestive system and interactions with the rest of the body. When researching the impacts on health, it is crucial that nutrients are accurately characterised and that they can be isolated where necessary. This research is also used to support businesses in relation to laws and regulations around Novel Food dossiers and health claims.

In vitro research as the foundation for human studies

In vitro models are used to research things like intestinal barrier function, the digestibility and bioavailability of nutrients, the fermentation of nutrients by intestinal bacteria (microbiota), allergic reactions and interactions between nutrients and the immune system. This enables us to take the first steps in researching the health effects of ingredients and food products, supplementing this with animal tests if necessary. By comparing a number of different products, we can select the most promising ones for follow-up research, for example in human studies. Conversely, in vitro research is also performed as a supplement to human studies in order to research the mechanisms by which nutrients can trigger specific health effects.

Isolating and characterising specific nutrients

Wageningen’s experts have access to a wide range of technologies and equipment to isolate, analyse and characterise macro and micronutrients on a large scale. This can be a starting point for further research or implementation. Examples of available technologies include Acta FPLC, Acta pure, Ata Pilot, UV/Vis, circular dichroism spectroscopy, FT-IR, GC-MS, GC-TOF, PTR-MS, PTR-QiTOF (analysing volatile compounds), reverse phase analysis and micro- /ultrafiltration. Wageningen’s experts are also working on isolating very pure proteins for research purposes, for example allergy research.

Biological simulation models

In vitro simulation models are especially useful for lead-finding and for screening foods and ingredients for their potential impacts on health. Many different types of laboratory models are available, including for different types of intestinal cell linings (epithelial cells and enteroendocrine cells, for example) and digestion and fermentation models (such as INFOGEST and SHIME). Advanced mini-intestines (organoids) and ‘gut-on-a-chip’ cell-based models are also being developed. These can be used to perform detailed research into the effects and digestion of food in the digestion system and the eventual effect on intestinal and overall health. This includes looking at:

  • Bioavailability of specific nutrients, such as amino acids
  • Intestinal barrier function
  • Metabolic effects in the intestines and the rest of the body
  • The immune system, infection reactions and allergic reactions
  • Microbiota composition and activity

Supporting Novel Food dossiers and health claims

Wageningen’s experts help businesses with questions like: ‘Can my product be sold on the European market yet?’ and ‘What can I put on the packaging?’ by providing support with registrations and responsible consumer-facing communications. 

Interested in the possibilities?

Contact us for an informal conversation.