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El Escorial (Madrid)
4-6 February, 2013

Link: Phenotypic Flexibility Symposium

A symposium jointly organized by NutriTech, Bioclaims, PhenFlex and NuGO, focusing on flexibility as characteristic of optimal health, its mechanisms, processes, role of diet and nutrition, consequences for healthy ageing and disease, its use as biomarker and its importance for food industry.

An introduction to the symposium

Physiology maintains a well-orchestrated rhythm to adapt to the continuously changing environment, of which diet takes a major share. We term this adaptive capacity “phenotypic flexibility”. Phenotypic flexibility is key to maintenance of overall homeostasis and thus, health and healthy ageing. Processes and mechanisms involved in phenotypic flexibility include (insulin mediated) glucose regulation, muscle metabolic flexibility, optimal inflammatory balance, triglyceride metabolic regulation, oxidative stress regulation, DNA damage response and apoptosis, HPA mediated stress response, the immune system, and others. All of these processes involve multiple molecular mechanisms, coordinated by complex regulatory biological networks.

Daily meals provide energy pulses which are efficiently absorbed by multiple processes and mechanisms, and likely negative side effects (like oxidative and inflammatory stress responses) are ideally quenched by counteracting mechanisms. Other external stressors, ranging from bacterial infections to mental stress, trigger comparable stress responses that adapt molecular physiological mechanisms to regain homeostasis. In general, chronic stressors may go beyond the limits of phenotypic flexibility and thereby induce inflexibility, which in turn promotes disease onset.

Interestingly, diet does act on both sides of the balance. On one hand certain nutrients, by excess of by defect, challenge phenotypic flexibility. On the other hand most nutrients, when consumed appropriately, play key roles in the mechanisms maintaining phenotypic flexibility. Understanding the role of nutrients in optimizing each link (organ, process) in the system of phenotypic flexibility may be the best strategy for (personalized) prevention of obesity-related and other nutritional disorders. This review discusses the concept, mechanisms, consequences and relation with diet of phenotypic flexibility.

Practical scope of the symposium

A growing number of researchers are active in the area of phenotypic flexibility, spanning mechanisms, biomarker development and nutrition research. This symposium aims to disseminate the topic but moreover create a movement of joint research activities on top of the projects that host this symposium. In this context, it is noteworthy that the Joint Programming Initiative “A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life” ( has embraced this topic of biomarker research.
Many lectures (both invited and selected) present research projects that are / will be connected to a joint pool of data and results to further stimulate this area.

Topic overview / outline program

1. Molecular mechanisms
2. Adaptation mechanisms to (macro)nutrients
3. Consequences of impaired phenotypic flexibility
4. The role of nutrition, nutrients and non-nutrients
5. Optimizing phenotypic flexibility, physiological benefits and healthy ageing
6. Phenotypic flexibility as biomarker concept
7. Phenotypic flexibility in food R&D
8. Roadmap towards a new accepted view on diet and health

logos escorial

Event date: 04/02/2013

Publication date: 24/10/2012