Build biomedical science leading to health-promoting products, personalized nutrition and digital solutions
Enhancing biomedical science
Our scientists are working hard to understand the role nutrition can play in treating and preventing disease.
Why it matters
People are living longer, and often with less support from healthcare systems. Through biomedical science, we aim to understand, treat and help prevent disease throughout life. We are advancing the therapeutic role of nutrition, and also exploring the role of genetics, family history, environment and lifestyle as nutrition becomes increasingly personalized.
We believe that the future of nutrition is personalization – that the food you eat will be tailored to your DNA, family history and medical needs. Through biomedical science, we aim to understand the role food can play in treating and preventing disease throughout life.
What we are doing
We’re proud of the work we have done to advance biomedical science in 2018.
Develop digital nutrition profiling for calculating nutrient intakes, as well as for making recommendations for nutritional balance, into a comprehensive tool to assist individuals and families to lead happier and healthier lives.
Our result: We are developing several products that can help treat disease or act as therapies, from protein substitutes to organic tube-feeding formulas.
Develop new interventional nutritional solutions driven by studies and diagnostic profiling. These programs will focus on key areas such as metabolism, gastrointestinal and brain health, healthy aging, skin health and pets.
Our result: We continue to advance the therapeutic role of nutrition, and are also exploring the roles of genetics, family history, environment and lifestyle as nutrition becomes increasingly personalized.
Our innovations in biomedical products
We are developing several products that can help treat disease or act as therapies, from protein substitutes to organic tube-feeding formulas.
A powdered protein substitute for the dietary management of metabolic disorder phenylketonuria, PKU sphere is Vitaflo’s first protein substitute based on the whey protein glycomacropeptide (GMP), and can be used by children from 6 years old. PKU sphere uses GMP as its main protein source, and is supplemented with amino acids, bringing patients the potential benefits of GMP without any compromise in nutritional profile. PKU sphere can easily be made to an individual’s preferred volume.
Compleat Organic Blends
Compleat Organic Blends are the first and only organic, real food tube-feeding formulas that provide complete nutrition through a combination of fruits, vegetables and chicken. With recipes for adults and for children, the formulas provide nutritious healthy food to those who need them.
Through our PhD program, we’re fostering a new generation of talent in science
At the Nestlé Institute for Health Science (NIHS), we are developing cutting-edge nutritional therapies and products – and we need the brightest minds to help us with that. In 2012, we created the PhD Student Program to help develop the next generation of cutting-edge nutrition research.
A high-quality doctoral program, it fosters emerging talent, helps young people transition to their professional lives and raises the standards of science.
Through the program, NIHS gives PhD students an opportunity to gain high-quality research experience in an interdisciplinary environment surrounded by state-of-the-art facilities and professional guidance and supervision. It also strengthens interactions between NIHS and selected universities that are of key interest for Nestlé Research.
Being part of the Nestlé PhD program has given me the opportunity to work at the crossroads between academia and industry, mixing basic science with more business-oriented projects – a great opportunity to see how scientific knowledge can be industrialized to produce the type of products that change people’s lives around the world.Isabelle Chareyon, PhD student in NIHS (cell biology) and EPFL
Using technology to spread nutrition knowledge in China
We’re partnering with tech powerhouse Xiaomi to promote healthier living in China. By combining our expertise in nutrition science with the convenience and reach of Xiaomi’s MIUI operating system, we aim to help China’s over-50s improve their diets – a crucial demographic in a country that is aging fast.
The platform we developed allows users to input their daily food intake, as well as information about their weight, blood pressure, sleep patterns and exercise habits. Using big data analytics, it can then generate individualized nutrition reports for each user.
The platform already has more than 8 million users and has shown 320 000 people how they have a lack of variety in their diets. We hope to use this platform to help improve the diets of adults and the aging population in China.
A discovery that sheds light on the treatment of diabetes
In partnership with leading academics, our scientists made an important scientific discovery into action mechanisms of the most common drug for lowering blood sugar levels. Published in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine, the study was carried out by Nestlé research scientists and academics from Vanderbilt University in the US and Aarhus University in Denmark.
Around 382 million people worldwide have type 2 diabetes, and metformin is the most common drug prescribed to lower blood sugar levels. Derived from the Galega officinalis plant, it is rich in galegine. But despite its use for more than 60 years, the drug’s precise mechanism of action remains unclear.
Our research found that metformin works by inducing mild energy stress in the liver, leading to an increase of a chemical compound known as cellular adenosine monophosphate, which triggers the inhibition of fructose 1,6-biphosphatase, a key enzyme for controlling glucose production.
These findings are important not just because they expand our knowledge, but because they could be applied in the development of natural therapies for lowering blood glucose levels.
Helping young scientists get their professional start
At the end of October 2018, Nestlé Research signed a five-year agreement with the University of Lausanne (UNIL) in Switzerland to enable students to apply for doctoral training positions at Nestlé. An organization dedicated to bringing fundamental science into breakthrough innovations, Nestlé Research shares with UNIL a commitment to world-class research. By building an academic bridge between the two organizations, this agreement strengthens a key scientific partnership.
Under the new scheme, UNIL students can apply for doctoral training positions at Nestlé, where they can carry out research projects while working toward PhDs or MD-PhDs from the university. While at Nestlé Research, students will be part of a dynamic, interdisciplinary environment with state-of-the-art facilities and will receive professional guidance. The benefits go both ways: as we help students work on important research, we build a pipeline of emerging talent.
We’re committed to supporting young people entering into professional life, and we’ve been involved in youth projects all around the world as part of our Global Youth Initiative. Through this partnership, we aim to raise the standards of science and support a new generation of world-leading scientists.
Working with top scientists on the healthy aging of muscles
We made a key discovery about the role of the peptide apelin in sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, in collaboration with top scientists from the University of Toulouse and the University of Florida. Sarcopenia impacts around an estimated 5–10% of over-65s, and can lead to reduced balance and mobility and an increase in the risk of falls. All told, the condition can have a serious impact on a person’s independence.
Our study, published in the high-impact journal Nature Medicine, showed that muscle stem cells lose capacity to respond to apelin during aging and that apelin production when muscles contract during exercise declines in older people.
Providing apelin therapeutically enhanced muscle healing by activating stem cells, and increased muscle mass and strength. Our results open the way to new biomedical applications as apelin production can be activated with specific nutritional supplements, and blood levels of apelin could also be used as a biomarker in the diagnosis of sarcopenia.
These findings can help older people maintain healthy muscles, and live independent lives for longer.
How meal replacement programs could be part of the solution to obesity
In a world where obesity and diabetes are at epidemic levels, we trialed the Optifast meal replacement program to see if it was more effective at producing meaningful weight loss than a standard food-based diet and lifestyle program. The results were hugely encouraging: compared to those on a food-based diet, participants in the Optifast program lost twice as much weight and had greater improvement in blood sugar levels.
The study started in February 2016, and we started sharing our results with the scientific community and healthcare professionals in 2018. We presented our findings at several scientific congresses, including the European Congress on Obesity in May, the American Diabetes Association in June and ObesityWeek in November. The Optiwin study was published in the journal Obesity in November.