Research could shift industry health messages - The Packer

Research could shift industry health messages

07/20/2012 09:48:00 AM
Carl Keen and Kerry Tucker

Carl Keen, University of California-DavisWe may well be on the cusp of several scientific breakthroughs that could allow the refinement of the public health message, “eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.”

New developments in science are poised to reshape the food-health nexus, according to one trend from the 2012 Food Foresight report.

Rapid advances in research may mean that health research changes the assumptions made about disease risks.

Many new areas of research — microbial imbalances in the gut, plant microRNAs, nanotechnology, personalized nutrition among them — will offer new insights into major disease processes and aid in the development of evidence-based regulations and health claims consumers can understand and use.

Dietary recommendations are likely to be more detailed and focused around the potential health-promoting and disease-preventing features of specific fruits and vegetables, and the nutritional consequences of the ways in which these foods might be processed and prepared.

Kerry Tucker, Nuffer, Smith, TuckerSimilar to our increasing understanding of the diverse nutritional actions of phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables, there is a growing appreciation that the phytochemicals found in different tree nuts vary considerably with respect to their profile, amounts and biological actions.

Simply put, there is an increasing acceptance of the fact that not all plant foods are equal with respect to their nutritional value. It’s easy to envision science-based debates regarding the potential health value of different grains, meats and dairy products becoming increasingly common.

The Supreme Court’s decision this month to uphold the Affordable Care Act will likely exacerbate the pressure on health care costs and the movement toward preventative health care strategies (e.g., nutrition).

The problem is most health institutes are not currently geared up for prevention programs. The ability to bill for such services is limited and prevention pales as a revenue source compared to billings for medical procedures.

Nonetheless, employers and insurance companies are increasingly embracing wellness programs and creating financial incentives to foster healthier lifestyles, lower health care costs and reduce worker absenteeism.

A challenge in the near future will be how to communicate this information to the average consumer.

Importantly, in agriculture there are likely to be winners and losers if certain foods are identified as being “better for you.”

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