There is a fast-growing consumer interest in foods that not only provide essential nutrients and energy but are also shown to promote good health and / or reduce the risk of (chronic) disease. Linking the consumption of foods or food ingredients with health benefits should be based on sound scientific evidence. Different classes of evidence can be defined in order to prove the health effects of foods, including cell and tissue studies, animal research and epidemiological and clinical trials. 

For the final health benefit substantiation, one or more randomised, placebo-controlled intervention trials in human subjects are required in most cases. However, in vitro studies can be essential in providing evidence to increase the impact of the application by defining mode of action and biological credibility. Moreover, in vitro studies can provide insight into the optimal design of human studies, increasing the chance of producing positive findings that support the health benefit. 

This whitepaper describes how in vitro models can support the health benefit substantiation for existing products and the identification of new functional ingredients, with a focus on gut health and immunity.