In quantifying the beneficial effect of dietary interventions in healthy subjects, nutrition research meets a number of new challenges. Inter individual variation in biomarker values often is larger than the effect related to the intervention. Healthy subjects have a remarkable capacity to maintain homeostasis, both through direct metabolic regulation, metabolic compensation of altered diets, and effective defence and repair mechanisms in oxidative and inflammatory stress. Processes involved in these regulatory activities essentially different from processes involved in early onset of diet related diseases. So, new concepts and approaches are needed to better quantify the subtle effects possibly achieved by dietary interventions in healthy subjects. Apart from quantification of the genotype and food intake (these are discussed in separate reviews in this series), four major areas of innovation are discussed: the biomarker profile concept, perturbation of homeostasis combined with omics analysis, imaging, modelling and fluxes. All of these areas contribute to a better understanding and quantification of the nutritional phenotype.