The Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS) has partnered with the Massachusetts-based Waters Corporation to begin research on developing faster and more sensitive tests to assess nutrition/malnutrition. In particular the company is interested in how different demographics of people differ in their un-met nutritional needs. Such research will lay the foundation towards creating specific nutritional formulas for fortifying Nestlé company’s processed foods.
Nestlé (or “Nestle” as it is more commonly known in the USA) began humbly in 1866 as an offshoot of a condensed milk factory that was opened in Switzerland. Since then Nestlé has become the world’s largest food company. With over 450 manufacturing facilities in 86 countries, the Corporate Research Project also evaluates Nestlé as being one of the world’s most multinational companies. Nestlé produces many brands of processed consumables that range from baby food and bottled water to food for pets. Many of these brands such as Dreyer’s ice-cream, Stouffer’s frozen dinners, KitKat, and Friskies cat food are familiar to consumers even if they are not aware that they are produced by Nestlé. Nestlé advertises itself as being the “world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company.”
Recently the Nestlé Research Institute for Health Sciences (NIHS—an acronym which is not to be confused with the NIH, or National Institute of Health) announced a partnership with the Waters Corporation to begin collaborative research on a new generation of tests to diagnose nutritional deficiencies. The Waters Corporation is based out of Massachusetts, and centers itself around providing analytical technologies and services to customers in fields such as scientific research, regulatory compliance, and engineering.
Currently, assessing nutritional deficiencies remains a dicey practice, made no less so because of disagreements among nutritionists about how much of a given vitamin or mineral is required for optimum health. Certainly in extreme cases of deficiency a person’s health dramatically and obviously suffers. For example, children deficient in vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate can develop rickets, and adults that lack vitamin C can develop scurvy. However cases such as these represent extreme examples of malnutrition. The state of “not having rickets” or “not having scurvy” does not necessarily make an individual healthy. Most vitamins and minerals have multiple important roles in maintaining health, some of which are obvious, but some of which are very subtle and may only become apparent over the course of a lifetime.
While a number of tests for vitamin and mineral deficiency already exist, Nestlé asserts that these tests are limited in their scope, slow, and imprecise. The company aims to pioneer new methods of testing using the blood and/or urine of patients (or consumers depending on one’s point of view) to evaluate individual needs. The NIHS hopes that these new analytical methods will shed light on the nutritional needs of specific groups of consumers. In particular the researchers will be investigating the relationships of age, geographic location, health status, and genetic predispositions to nutritional wellness. Also at hand is the question of the best ways in which foods can be fortified with vitamins and minerals to maximize their nutritional benefits. The results of such research will no doubt give Nestlé a competitive edge in learning how to increase the health benefits of their products and thereby make them more appealing to consumers.
By Sarah Takushi