Using omics technology to characterize and quantify biomolecules for better nutrition

Food is the single greatest determinant of human health and disease over the course of a lifetime, however comprehensive an understanding of the composition of what we eat remains unknown, says Maya Rajasekharan, Senior Strategic Program Development Adviser at the International Biodiversity Alliance and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Moreover, unlocking biochemical profiles and bioactive compounds in food opens new opportunities for human health, sustainable agriculture and better nutrition.

There are more than 26,000 distinct and identifiable biochemicals in food, but food composition databases and research focus only on about 150 of them, so there is still a lot of “nutrition dark matter” that makes up the food we eat every day.

In the article Foodomics: A Data-Driven Approach to Revolutionizing Nutrition and Sustainable Diets, published in May 2022, researchers outline the potential of “Foodomics,” the application of omics technology to characterize and quantify biomolecules to improve well-being.

Foodomics is the system of study of food and nutrition by applying advanced omics techniques such as genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolism.

It also lays out the foundations and early fruits of the Periodic Table of Food initiative, which aims to develop and use low-cost mass spectrometry kits, cloud-based analytical tools, and a public database for quantitative and qualitative analysis of the world’s most important foods.

Today, targeted analysis of the full range of nutrients in food is an expensive undertaking, costing up to US$50,000 for regulatory assays. New analytical techniques can lower the cost of analysis, in the same way that the cost of genetic analysis has decreased with advanced techniques. “

Maya Rajasekharan, Senior Adviser, Strategic Program Development, International Biodiversity Alliance, International Center for Tropical Agriculture

Low-cost food science tools will open up new opportunities including the democratization of technologies for their wider use around the world.

“Creating the next generation of a comprehensive global food composition database will open up new research areas linking agriculture, nutrition and health,” Rajasekharan said.

Collaboration with the American Heart Association

Dr. Selena Ahmed, global director of the American Heart Association’s Periodic Table Food Initiative, and lead author of the paper, said that the paper itself provides insight into the role of Vodomix as a data-driven approach to providing solutions to diet challenges.

Ahmed says the American Heart Association is collaborating with the coalition to lead the management of PTFI, which aims to comprehensively assess what’s in food using robust, standardized analytical methods.

“The American Heart Association brings its expertise in human health with a focus on preventative lifestyle solutions informed by rigorous science and the expertise of the AHA complement that of the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT as a leader in agricultural research.” She says, adding that the AHA and Alliance partnership represents an innovative collaboration that breaks down traditional silos — the kind needed to develop transformative solutions for our disrupted food systems.

“Whereas the past 100 years of agricultural history have focused on yields and calories, foodomics has enabled a focus on crop quality and food quality based on food composition.”


The International Biodiversity Alliance and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture

Journal reference:

Ahmed S. and others. (2022) Foodomics: A data-driven approach to revolutionizing nutrition and sustainable diets. Frontiers in Nutrition.

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