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Top speakers for Nutracon 2007

Among the many outstanding presenters are keynote speakers, Prof David Hughes of London University's Imperial College, and Julian Whitaker, MD, of the Whitaker Wellness Clinic. Here, FF&N offers attendees a glimpse at what they can expect.

Prof David Hughes — 'coming to terms with the big picture'
Hughes is an internationally known food-marketing strategist and consultant. The Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London will address a number of major themes at Nutracon, he says, among them the increasing pressure on industry to address the larger picture.

"As the general public becomes more aware that personal well-being and the health of the planet are intertwined, the suppliers of super ingredients are going to have to deal with increasing political pressure to address these issues, and to justify their practices," he says. "There is little doubt things are moving in this direction. In the UK, for instance, one very major retailer has recently announced its plans to become carbon neutral by 2012. This will bring enormous pressure to bear on every supplier. Certainly, awareness of the value of all things organic is moving up nicely, but it is beginning to be bumped aside by the big-picture issues such as sustainability in farming and manufacturing processes and fair trade practices.

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"In additon, the regulatory climate is heating up. Regulation is more aggressive right now in the UK than in the US, but as more of these functional ingredients and products hit the marketplace, you are going to see tighter regulation in America," Hughes says.

"And something else we should expect to see is tighter control of these speciality ingredients by the suppliers themselves. For food manufacturers, this means they will have to secure partnerships with suppliers for these proprietary ingredients. In some cases, such as Nestlé's Nespresso coffee systems and blends, these must now be bought directly from Nestlé, cutting the retailer out completely. This could increasingly be the story for manufacturers with a unique ingredient."

Other trends he expects to address include the socio-political aspect of nourishment, and the need for consumer education. "The middle and upper classes will come to terms with securing the more-expensive, nourishing and 'body beautiful' products, but that leaves the underclasses, whose lack of knowledge and means to partake create a politically unsustainable atmosphere.

"Presently, this super-ingredients industry is science driven, but the science will inevitably have to be conveyed to the consumer," he says. "Consumer education is expensive, but absolutely necessary. It is what underpins brand management. Super ingredients are arriving in the marketplace at such a fast pace that it is confusing to consumers. Therefore, education is the key to whether sales of an ingredient will be sustainable. "Big industry has really not been pro-active on any of these issues," Hughes says, "and that is going to have to change."

Dr Julian Whitaker — 'The Diseasification of America'
Whitaker is known as an impassioned spokesperson for alternative medicine, something he initially came to through contact with such notable figures as Linus Pauling and Nathan Pritikin. For the last 25 years his focus has been on the attainment of optimal health and reversal of disease. His institute has served more than 25,000 patients.

Whitaker says his speech, 'The Diseasification of America,' will focus on three points: First, what is a placebo, truly? "This is a therapy that it believed by a doctor to work but doesn't," he says. "For example, chemotherapy doesn't work; bypass therapy doesn't prolong life; and things like drugs for diabetes actually increase the incidence of heart attacks, the very thing they're supposed to prevent.

"We can look at this historically. During the Civil War, for instance" he says, "they had a placebo treatment for wounds called a pus rag — the same rag rubbed on everyone's wounds — and most of the fatalities of that war were from infection. Doctors today act as though we don't have any such therapies now, but we're riddled with them.

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"The amount of money involved in creating placebos is staggering," he says. "We spend $35 billion on statin drugs to treat a nonexistent disease, hypercholesterol. Pharma creates disease in order to penetrate the marketplace. If pharma can successfully shift the paradigm to calling a cholesterol level of 190 or above a disease, it means billions more in drug sales."

Second, Whitaker says, he'll talk about the Tomato Effect, a metaphor for an efficacious treatment for a certain disease that is ignored or rejected because it doesn't make sense in light of accepted theories of disease mechanism and drug action — in other words, therapies that work but that are not believed to work. "This includes co-Q10, or arginine for increasing nitric oxide, or SamE for depression. These are proven to work but aren't believed to work by much of the medical community," Whitaker says.

And finally, "People who come to this conference will want to know the importance of what they do," Whitaker says, "and the huge threat they pose to pharma." The drug industry, he says, is working gradually and quietly to destroy the supplements industry, and they are winning. The only thing that is keeping the industry alive right now is customer loyalty. If pharma is successful and people are complacent, the US is going to end up following the European regulatory model, where you can't even buy co-Q10."

It promises to be a message passionately delivered and packed with vital information for the functional-foods and supplements community.

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