The issue of proper nutrition has become more centred on the individual: there is growing recognition that nutrition needs to be adapted to an individual’s specific way of life and requirements. In cooperation with its subsidiary, the Institut für Angewandte Biochemie AG (IABC), Hepart AG, a company based in the city of Kreuzlingen on Lake Constance, develops dietary products and micronutrient preparations adapted to consumers’ individual requirements. The adaptation of the preparations to customers’ individual requirements is based on the analysis of blood and saliva samples. The company also runs a clinic that offers special programmes to help people change their dietary habits.
People seeking to change their dietary habits need plenty of patience, motivation and determination, characteristics which not everybody possesses. Hepart AG produces special dietary foods which have been developed to help people change their habits. The company produces foods like muesli, drinks, soup and crackers, which at first sight do not seem very different from their traditional variants. “However, the composition of our products differs from that of traditional foods; they consist of 60% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 20% fat. They also contain a specific compound that prevents blood glucose fluctuations,” said Andreas Hefel, managing director of Hepart AG. “This composition is designed to trigger the human metabolism and activate fat-burning mechanisms.” Since 1991, the company, which runs its own clinic, the Fachkurhaus Seeblick für Medical Wellness in the city of Berlingen, has been offering specific nutrition and metabolism therapies. The nutrition therapies consist of several phases. During the reduction and detoxification phase, clients consume only EPD (three-phase nutrition programme) products in the form of twelve to fifteen daily meals. “Despite the reduced calorie intake of around 800 kcal per day, clients experience improved wellbeing and increased vitality,” Hefel explained. During the subsequent stabilization phase, clients are gradually taught new eating habits.
The company’s food claims conform to the European Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, which came into force in 2007. Food producers are no longer allowed to label food products “sugar-free” or “low-fat”, “good for strengthening the immune system or joint function” without scientific backing. This regulation does not represent an obstacle for Hepart AG, quite the opposite in fact: “The publication of health claims for vitamins and minerals provides us with a plethora of approved health claims,” Andreas Hefel said. However, he also highlights that “the regulation very much impedes the innovative capacity of small companies as the registration of a new claim is associated with rather stringent requirements.”
However, general statements about an individual’s daily mineral and vitamin requirements are increasingly being criticized. “General statements on a person’s nutrient requirements are no longer tenable,” said Otto Knes, managing director of the Institut für Angewandte Biochemie AG (IABC), a subsidiary of Hepart AG that carries out biochemical analyses to determine the micronutrient status of individuals. According to Knes, the fact that health organizations in different countries provide different information on individual vitamin and nutrient requirements indicates that it is impossible to make clear statements: micronutrient requirements differ considerably between individuals. This is why Hepart AG has developed micronurients that can be specifically adapted to the requirements of individual clients.
These micronutrients do not tend to be used for the treatment of certain diseases, but rather for preventive purposes. Saliva and blood analyses provide information on an individual’s nutrient requirements, which is then used to prepare a specific, made-to-measure product. The nutrient requirements are reassessed after around three months in order to monitor the effect of the product. The measurement of suitable indicators is a key element in the preparation of an individual nutrient profile. Otto Knes uses the example of folic acid to explain the suitability of indicators: “The blood folic acid level is not a suitable indicator for an individual’s folic acid requirements.” In the human body, folic acid degrades the amino acid homocysteine, elevated concentrations of which have been associated with cardiovascular diseases. However, the quantity of folic acid that is required to degrade homocysteine differs between individuals, which is why low folic acid levels do not necessarily indicate the presence of high homocysteine levels. “It is a lot more conclusive to measure the homocysteine level directly and use this information to determine an individual’s folic acid requirements,” said Otto Knes.
Once IABC has analyzed a person’s nutrient profile, Hepart AG manufactures the products. The company purchases micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, trace elements, bioflavonoids and amino acids to enrich specifically produced granulates. “What makes these preparations so special is that all the micronutrients we use are mixed with guar gum and turned into uniform granulates,” said Andreas Hefel. They are mixed with water, which makes them expand. “The carrier substance guar gum is difficult or impossible to digest. A colloid film thus forms that releases the micronutrients continuously over a period of four to six hours,” Hefel explained. The nutrients are integrated into plant cells, which leads to absorption properties that are similar to those of fruit and vegetables. Hefel also highlighted that the products do not cause adverse effects: the client receives an application instruction detailing the quantities he or she needs to take along with a measurement spoon. However, Hefel also pointed out that accidentally overdosing on the product does not lead to undesired side effects.
The idea of producing micronutrient products according to individual requirements is a relatively new one. Research into this area and the development of such products only started around twelve years ago. However, Otto Knes is convinced that this principle will become an integral part of everyday life in future: “Individualized nutrient preparations will gain in importance.” It is therefore highly likely that general statements on the effect of foods and dietary supplements will eventually become obsolete.
Further information:Hepart AGAndreas Hefel Esslenstr. 38280 Kreuzlingen Tel.: +41 (0)71 666 8340E-mail: andreas.hefel(at)hepart.com Institut für Angewandte Biochemie AG Otto KnesEsslenstr. 38280 Kreuzlingen Tel.: +41 (0)71 666 8385E-mail: otto.knes(at)iabch.ch