into a food matrix. The mouth detects as undesirable (in texture) anything larger than about 50 micrometers.
The main mission of Danone is to help people build and preserve their health capital through food, according to Johan van Hylckama Vlieg. Danone offers consumers products that serve all life stages, from babies (i.e., foods focused on infant nutrition) to older adults (including foods for people with specific nutritional requirements, also referred to as “medical nutrition”).
However, Danone—and the food industry at large—is up against some new challenges, not the least of which is a changing demographic context. In 2013, five countries will represent 47 percent of the global population and 45 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP): China, India, the United States, Indonesia, and Brazil. “These are mostly new target populations,” van Hylckama Vlieg said. Much of the research on the microbiome, diet, and health to date has focused on the “classical First World context,” that is, Western Europe and the United States. Added to that is the trend in global aging. The age pyramid in 2015 is expected to be drastically different than it was in 2000, with large geographic differences in aging trends.
These demographic challenges are compounded by the fact that the food industry is often held responsible for the trend in obesity, although many other lifestyle factors contribute to obesity. Consequently, consumer associations are requesting more transparency on food composition, origin, and value for money. Yet there is an important role for the food industry to play in improving health for the global population. Science—in particular the science of the microbiome—is providing new tools and knowledge to manage these challenges. With respect to the microbiome, researchers are identifying a growing number of microbiota signatures and activities associated with health and disease (e.g., energy metabolism, production and availability of nutrients, cardiovascular health, cell proliferation and cancer, gut-brain axis and emotion, immune maturation and functioning, gut comfort, pathogen protection). More interestingly, in van Hylckama Vlieg’s opinion, is that researchers are beginning to identify not just associations, but causal relationships between microbiome signatures and activities associated with specific health benefits. The food we eat is also the major source of growth for our gut microbiota and thereby may be an effective way to steer its composition and activity. The question is, How can we
15 This section summarizes the presentation of Johan van Hylckama Vlieg.