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A multi‐ontology framework to guide agriculture and food towards diet and health

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Global increases in metabolic diseases that can be influenced by diet have re‐emphasized the importance of considering how different foods can improve human health. The entire agricultural enterprise has an unprecedented opportunity to increase its value by producing foods that improve the health of consumers. Research efforts in agriculture/food science/nutrition are endeavoring to do so, although little tangible success has been achieved. At the core of the problem is a failure to define the goal itself: health. Health, as a scientifically measurable concept, is poorly defined relative to disease, and yet consensus‐based, curated vocabularies that describe the multiple variations in human health in useful terms are critical to unifying the scientific fields related to agriculture and nutrition. Each of the life‐science disciplines relating to health has developed databases, thesauri, and/or ontologies to capture such knowledge. High‐throughput and ‐omic technologies are expanding both the amount and heterogeneity of available information. Unfortunately, the language used to describe substantially similar (even logically equivalent) concepts is often different between information systems. Increasing the future value of agriculture, therefore, will depend on creating a process for generating common ontologies of the concept of health, and guiding the development of a common language. This paper illustrates a framework for integrating heterogeneous ontologies into interdisciplinary, foods‐for‐health knowledge systems. A common system of language that describes health and is shared by all the life‐science disciplines will provide immediate benefits in terms of increased health‐claim regulatory efficiencies and predictive functions for individualized diets. Ultimately, these vocabularies will guide agriculture to its next goal of producing health‐enhancing foods. Copyright © 2007 Society of Chemical Industry
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Keywords: data; database; diet; food; health; ontology

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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