Ferdinand von Meyenn: "Nutrition can prevent disease and prolong health"

In the fourth part of our interview series "Food trends under the radar", Ferdinand von Meyenn gives his thoughts on the future food system. The Professor of Nutrition and Epigenetics at ETH Zurich explains why biodiversity and food technology need to be reconciled.
1 June, 2022 by
Ferdinand von Meyenn: "Nutrition can prevent disease and prolong health"
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

GDI: Which food innovations are we not talking about enough?

Ferdinand von Meyenn: Sustainable diets, in particular protein rich diets replacing animal based products, are becoming more and more important in respect to the growing world population and increasing demand for proteins. I hope we will find good ways to slow or reverse current trends towards increased meat consumption and rather feed the world with alternative products.

What food, still unknown (to consumers) today, will end up on our plates in the future?

A number of exciting natural compounds – many ingredients of our diet – have been found to have relevant health benefits and functionalities. With better understanding and studies over the next few years, I expect that “functional foods” will become more relevant and might shape our future diet. Nutrition has the potential to be one of our fundamental ways to prevent disease and prolong health.

What developments happening around you are you deliberately choosing to ignore? Why?

We are seeing a large number of new diets, mostly small variations of existing concepts emerging over the last years. While most of them are based on interesting ideas, I feel that we are still missing the molecular understanding of how nutrition does affect our health. My interest revolves around these molecular mechanisms, aiming to understand how nutrition and its molecular constituents affect human physiology.

Is there an important resource for the food system that is still underestimated today?

I am a strong supporter of biodiversity and ecological food production. Nonetheless, I do also see the promises of engineered food in particular to implement novel functionalities and health beneficial aspects into natural products. Maybe we can achieve ways to maintain large diversity and still address some of the challenges of our future.

Will food prices increase or decrease and why?

Given all the climatic and political challenges of our time, I expect that cost of living overall will increase. My hope is that sustainable and ecologically friendly produced food will become more affordable, helping to feed the world. At the same time, I expect that people will be willing to pay more for luxury products and high quality products.

Which companies / startups / chefs are the most promising newcomers or game changers?

Health, wellbeing and sustainability are becoming more and more important for all aspects of our culture. Long-term changes to improve our diet will require a deeper molecular understanding of nutrition-physiology interactions. I am convinced that new nutritional concepts will emerge from this understanding and guide our future developments – creating a diet to maintain health and wellbeing while preventing disease.

Ferdinand von Meyenn is a speaker at the 2nd International Food Innovation Conference on 15 June 2022.

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