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Nutrafur (Frutarom Group) participates in SMARTFOODS project of industrial research for the development of intelligent foods

01 January 2019

A consortium of companies, including Nutrafur, and 23 public research organizations, universities, technology centers and hospitals from different Autonomous Communities and the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), particpates in the SMARTFOODS project.

The SMARTFOODS project aims to develop a new approach to the production of functional foods and food supplements that surpass the traditional strategy of the pharmaceutical industry (a drug for a target / ingredient for a target) and adds the design of multifactorial-ingredientes and new nutrigenomic concepts, personalizing the bioactive ingredients to concrete genotypes of the population.

Adding functionality to foods to give them healthier properties has been a significant industrial strategy in recent years that has led to the development of functional foods, products that add value, enhance brand image and could be a tool to lower the costs of public health by making it possible to reduce the use of drugs. As a result, the so-called functional foods are increasingly present in the market.

The industry, however, has major problems in the development of novel functional foods and food supplements, especially those using plant extracts, due to the rigor and slowness imposed by regulatory bodies in the European Union, the lack of valid biomarkers to demonstrate cause effect or the difficulty of industrial protection, but especially due to the lack of innovative approaches that allow a conceptual advance.

The process of designing and innovating functional products, both food and nutraceuticals, responds to a logic with great analogy to that used in the innovation of products of the pharmaceutical sector. This logic states that a biological target is modified (improved) by consuming an active substance contained in a drug, thus exerting a beneficial effect on the pathology of the individual. The transfer of this logic to the food industry has resulted in new foods containing one or more bioactive compounds acting on a biological target whose modulation is beneficial to the individual. This approach has made possible a great leap forward and an evolution of the food market, with an important range of products on the market with claims for health.

In practice, the development of functional foods derived from the pharmaceutical concept, leads to the need for a multi-consumption of products to try to preserve the state of health. For example, with aging, the consumption of antioxidants, polyunsaturated fatty acids, collagen, … is more and more common. A cumbersome situation for the consumer, which complicates the choice and discourages the consumption of functional foods.

The majority of multifactorial pathologies are the result of an imbalance of a set of processes in the organism responsible for maintaining a situation of equilibrium, or homeostasis, that allow it to adapt to the changes of the environment. The ability of organisms to maintain homeostasis is known as resilience. Therefore, enhancing resilience is an effective and innovative way to prevent the onset of pathologies or multifactorial situations.

With these premises, the approach of the SMARTFOODS project is based on adding, in a personalized way, to the consumption of a balanced and sufficient diet and to the practice of exercise, those ingredients that allow to enhance the capacity of resilience in the different situations in which the homeostatic balance could be compromised.

This approach involves an important innovation, since it is a matter of combining in the same food a set of bioactive ingredients that act simultaneously on the set of targets involved in the maintenance of homeostasis. An approach that allows to develop new products, more effective for the prevention of pathologies or multifactorial situations, that simplifies the consumer’s choice, gives new commercial arguments and, ultimately, allows the food industry to grow.

Throughout the first three years of the project, the entity has achieved the stated objectives, and the research results obtained by Nutrafur (Frutarom Group) in the various research tasks included in the different project activities have been satisfactory.

Creating a SMARTFOODS Ingredient Platform

Obtaining and characterizing new ingredients, including:

  • The development of three new ingredients, lemon extract (eriocitrin 25-30%), rosemary extract (ursolic acid and other triterpenes 60%) and olive extract (oleanolic, maslinic acid and other triterpenes 60%)
  • The initiation of studies for the design of new processes that allow the production of oleanolic acid of more than 90% purity (olive) at industrial scale and the process of obtaining luteolin from purified eriocitrin (lemon).

Preclinical validation:

  • In direct collaboration with Biopolis, through the use of biological models (Caenorhabditis élegans) of a potential mechanism based on physical interactions between the flavonoid molecule, considering not only its molecular skeleton but also its spatial configuration.
  • In collaboration with scientists from the Instituto Murciano de Investigación Biosanitaria (IMIB) – Arrixaca (Murcia) of the potential activity of the triterpenes obtained in this project, in promoting and improving the closure of chronic wounds, such as diabetic foot or pressure ulcers.

Clinical functional validation:

  • Development and cognitive well-being: clinical validation test of a combination of ingredients (formulation) at the Department of Morphological Sciences and Psychobiology; Research Group of Neurology and Experimental Neurosurgery. School of Medicine. University of Murcia.
  • Metabolic Syndrome- Cardiovascular Health: randomized, placebo-controlled trial with two parallel arms to study the efficacy of a specific formulation in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in “healthy” subjects at Catholic University San Antonio de Murcia (UCAM).



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