Targeting the delivery of dietary plant bioactives to those who would benefit most: from science to practical applications
Review article, 2019


A healthy diet and optimal lifestyle choices are amongst the most important actions for the prevention of cardiometabolic diseases. Despite this, it appears difficult to convince consumers to select more nutritious foods. Furthermore, the development and production of healthier foods do not always lead to economic profits for the agro-food sector. Most dietary recommendations for the general population represent a "one-size-fits-all approach" which does not necessarily ensure that everyone has adequate exposure to health-promoting constituents of foods. Indeed, we now know that individuals show a high variability in responses when exposed to specific nutrients, foods, or diets.


This review aims to highlight our current understanding of inter-individual variability in response to dietary bioactives, based on the integration of findings of the COST Action POSITIVe. We also evaluate opportunities for translation of scientific knowledge on inter-individual variability in response to dietary bioactives, once it becomes available, into practical applications for stakeholders, such as the agro-food industry. The potential impact from such applications will form an important impetus for the food industry to develop and market new high quality and healthy foods for specific groups of consumers in the future. This may contribute to a decrease in the burden of diet-related chronic diseases. Key messages Individual differences in ADME (Absorption, Digestion, Metabolism and Excretion) is believed to underpin much of the inter-individual variation in responses. Recent developments in the area of food metabolome databases and fast improvements in innovative metabotyping technologies hold great promise for improved profiling of dietary intake, exposure to individual ingredients, foods and dietary patterns, as well as our ability to identify individual responsiveness. The food industry needs well-defined population clusters or targets in order to be able to design "personalized products". There are indeed excellent industrial opportunities for foods that modulate gut microbiota, and thereby enable the delivery of food bioactive metabolites. It is currently not clear whether knowledge on individual nutrient needs, based on genetic or metagenomic data, would affect long-term dietary and health behaviours. Data to support the development of dietary recommendations may need to be generated by new n-of-1-based study designs in the future.

Healthy diet

Food industry

Inter-individual variability in responses

Cardiometabolic diseases



Baukje de Roos

University of Aberdeen

Anna-Marja Aura

Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT)

Maria Bronze

Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnologica

Aedin Cassidy

University of East Anglia

Maria-Teresa Garcia Conesa

CEBAS- CSIC, Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada del Segura

Eileen R. Gibney

University College Dublin

Arno Greyling


Jim Kaput


Zohar Kerem

The Hebrew University Of Jerusalem

Nada Knezevic

Podravka d.d.

Paul Kroon

Quadram Institute

Rikard Landberg

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Food and Nutrition Science

Claudine Manach

Clermont Auvergne University

Dragan Milenkovic

Clermont Auvergne University

Ana Rodriguez-Mateos

King's College London

Francisco A. Tomas-Barberan

CEBAS- CSIC, Centro de Edafología y Biología Aplicada del Segura

Tom van de Wiele

Ghent university

Christine Morand

Clermont Auvergne University

European Journal of Nutrition

1436-6207 (ISSN) 1436-6215 (eISSN)

Vol. 58 53 (suppl. 2) 65-73

Subject Categories

Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Food Science

Nutrition and Dietetics





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