Something is brewing deep inside the Nestlé factories, and Oompa Loompas have nothing to do with it. The Swiss food company has been dabbling in nutritional genomics, otherwise defined as the study of the integrative metabolism of food as understood by measuring genes, proteins, and metabolites.
“We’re developing bioanalytical strategies to try and uncover the root effect that nutrition may have on age-related diseases or degenerative diseases that occur in life,” says Matthew Roberts, project leader for nutritional genomics in humans and companion animals at the Nestlé Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The linchpin of their operation is the Affy- metrix microarray system, which gives them access to RNA expression information. Nestlé is also getting help on the bioinformatics front from Lion Bioscience in Heidelberg, Germany.
“We’re particularly interested in naturally occurring ingredients in our food products that have an effect on metabolic homeostasis and could in some way either prevent or ameliorate age-related or degenerative conditions,” Roberts says.
“In the slightly long-term we can imagine a sort of personalized nutritional profile,” he adds. “Depending on your genetic background, life history, or other genomic measurements, a person will be able to select products that are really personalized for his or her health benefits.”
Willy Wonka would be proud.
— Jasmin Chua