Kanagawa Accademy of Science and Technology
Project for development of food functionality assesment methods

Brief summary

Assessment of Food Function and Safety using Nutrigenomics (i.e., the comprehensive analysis of a series of genomic variability induced by food ingestion.)

Project Leader: Dr. Keiko Abe (Prof. of Univ. of Tokyo)
Investigation period: 2015-2016.
The project takes a scientific approach to evidence-based evaluative analysis of the effect and efficacy of functional foods and cosmetics for health and anti-aging, and strives to further the development of wholesome products through key collaborations with several Kanagawa-based food and cosmetic corporations (Figure 1).

Diet and lifestyle are thought to have a major impact on an individual’s susceptibility to diseases. A healthy diet is essential to quality of life and the prevention of lifestyle-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. In Japan, the number of those aged 65 or older is expected to soon reach 30 percent of the total population, and the development of functional foods to maintain wellness now plays a critical role in finding ways to delay the onset of lifestyle-related diseases associated with aging.

In earlier research, the analysis of the effects and efficacy of functional foods was carried out in a non-holistic fashion. However, the use of DNA microarray technology has made, researchers succeed in applying a nutrigenomics approach to holistic at the gene level and to comprehensively analyze the biological activity and functions of foods and food constituents. Nutrigenomics is an emerging field that investigates the effect of foods and food constituents on gene expression, employing experimental and data analysis and high-throughput genetic screening techniques to further explore the effect of nutrients on genes in the human genome (Figure 2).

As well as promoting the benefits of a collaborative approach, this project also strives to lead the way in establishing a public independent evaluation organization for the development of scientific evidence-based wellness and anti-aging products, and a centre for international certification standards.
Through the Health and Anti-Aging Project and other collaborations with institutions and industrial sectors, KAST will continue to spearhead new scientific and technological solutions to advance food functionality research and the development of wellness and anti-aging products, and to deliver key innovations in science to the world stage.


We evaluate the food functionality and the proper quantity of nutrients by nutrigenomics. Health benefits of foods must be supported by sufficient scientific evidence. Because the components of foods do not show drastic effects such as drugs, the phenotypical effects are difficult to detect. We use DNA microarray to evaluate the functionality at the global genetic level. To date, we are evaluating the functionality of amino acid mixtures (Figure 3), maple syrup and crops from Kanagawa (ex. mulberry leaves, Tochu tea, citrus fruits etc.).Nutrients are essential for us and their deficiency or excessiveness affect to our health. We focus on an iron, as an essential nutrient, and are analyzing the effects of its deficiency or excessiveness by use of nutrigenomics technique (Figure 4).
We have reported the hepatic gene expression profiles in rats given maple syrup and iron-deficient diet. The results of DNA microarray analysis showed that rats fed a maple syrup-containing diet acquired a function of liver protection more than rats fed an equivalent sugar mix syrup-containing diet as the control, probably because expression levels of genes encoding the enzymes for formation of the free ammonia, a generally harmful entity to the liver, were down-regulated (Figure 5) (1).Iron is an essential mineral, and its deficiency elicits anemia. Dietary iron-deficiency induced a variety of metabolic changes and even apoptosis in liver (2). Furthermore, we revealed that a low quantity of dietary iron influenced hepatic gene expression strongly, even if it is the conditions in which anemia did not appear. It has been clearly shown that, though subjects apparently look healthy, their bodily changes may have occurred at gene expression level.
(1) Watanabe Y. et al. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 75:2408-2410 (2011)
(2) Kamei A. et al. Physiol Genomics 42:149-156 (2010)