1.2 Novel technologies measure health risk/benefit effects

Despite various public health campaigns, consumers generally have low compliance to dietary recommendations and guidelines, resulting in suboptimal health situations, increased risk for disease and unhealthy aging. A personal approach is nowadays believed to stimulate and motivate people to comply with a healthy diet that meets their individual needs, and thereby contribute to a long-lasting behavioural change more effectively.

In previous research, personalised dietary advice has successfully been applied to achieve healthier diets and improvement of individual health. However, currently we are facing another challenge in our diets: the need to reduce the consumption of animal protein to 40% of total protein consumption by 2030 to achieve environmental targets. The shift towards plant-based choices is not only limited to the protein transition urgency, but stimulating consumers to eat more plant-based food also has other (health) benefits, like an increased intake of nutrients linked to prevention of (chronic) diseases (e.g. fiber, unsaturated fats, antioxidants and vitamins). Moreover, plant-based foods are thought to stimulate the gut microbiome more actively and in this way support microbiome-mediated health effects. Therefore, switching to more plant-based choices in our diet seems the way to go.

Another area we want to increase our position and understanding is on how to better predict potential beneficial or adverse effects of food and feed related compounds or pathogens connected to the development and production of (new) foodstuffs, animal feeds and ingredients (including from waste and side streams in regular food production; circular agriculture/economy). Traditionally, this is done by performing animal experiments (think for example of the standard 90-day toxicity studies with rodents and studies with farm animals). Because animal experiments encounter social resistance and, in the case of food, are often not very predictive of effects on humans, WUR is working on animal-free methods for determination of the safety and health of food, feed and related components. Several in vitro and in silico alternatives are available, but in vitro cell based methods are still often too simple and fail to recapitulate the complexity of the in vivo tissue. Organoids have the potential to provide increasingly improved in vitro models making it an interesting research area to be further explored within this project.