Food and Health Research in Europe – FAHRE Thematic Expert Report

Food and Health Research in Europe – FAHRE
Thematic Expert Report
Dr Zeinab Mulla
Area: Nutrition/Biochemistry
November 2010
The current main areas of molecular and cellular research in relation to food and health are as
follows: micronutrients, macronutrients, nutrigenomics, metalobomics, and the development of
biomarkers as a tool for dietary assessment. The research with micronutrients and macronutrients is
both clinical (randomised controlled trials and laboratory work) and epidemiological. The key
micronutrients being currently researched are B vitamins/folate (although this is beginning to drop
off now), Iron and vitamin D. Polyphenols/flavonoid have emerged as a big area of research in the
last few years. The focus has begun to shift from micronutrients in the last 5 years as a lot of
research has been done and there has been a lack of positive results, for example trials of
micronutrients in relation to cardiovascular and cognitive outcomes. But there is still scope for
further investigation with the micronutrients mentioned above. There is now a lot more focus on
whole foods and dietary patterns in research with randomised controlled trials now focusing on this.
Developing biomarkers for use as dietary assessment methods is a newly emerging area as the
limitation of the current dietary assessment methods is recognised. It is thought the measurement
error involved in current methods may be obscuring diet-disease relationships (due to the lack of
positive finding in diet-disease studies). Current methods have been the same for a long time (past
20 plus years): weighed food diet, estimated food diary, recalls, food frequency questionnaire,
dietary checklist, diet history, observation, duplicate diets. Currently the most commonly used in
both epidemiological studies and randomised clinical trials are weighed food diet, estimated food
diary, recalls and food frequency questionnaire. All have error involved, but all of the above
mentioned are regarded as good and valid measures and some are better than others depending on
study type, diaries involve the least error. To date some biomarkers for the validation of dietary
assessment methods have been developed but the area is limited by the lack of biomarkers to reflect
wider aspects of diet (Doubly labelled water, urinary nitrogen and potassium are recognised as
routine methods in validation studies). This is an important priority for research.
Due to the interest in whole foods/dietary patterns, researchers have now started to investigate the
bioavailability of foods/nutrients from foods. This is an important metabolic area and is related to
the nutrigenomics area. How gene expression and the metabolic response is affected by foods is a
new and cutting edge area but has been slow-moving thus far as it is technically and
methodologically challenging. The hope from this research is that it can lead to personalised
nutrition by assessing how the food/nutrient-gene interaction can affect susceptibility to disease.
There is still a long way to go in this area of research.
This cellular/molecular area of food and health research is one ripe for industry involvement-due to
the current interest in nutrition from the public and the many food linked diseases currently
prevalent. Industry has been very interested in being able to find health benefits for their products
and there are many examples where industry has collaborated with universities to do this for
example plant stanols being incorporate into products such as margarine and the benefits of
chocolate due to polyphenols. Industry will either fund research or provide products to be used in
trials. Some areas have had good industry involvement while others have not; the area of
micronutrients research has been utilised well by industry, other areas such as nutrigenomics have
not been so well utilised by industry perhaps because the time and labour required before output
was obtained would be greater than in other areas. This trend is likely to continue.
1. Research at European level in your area of expertise Table 1.1 Main programmes and projects
Outline of project
EC funding?
The European Prospective Investigation into
Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) &
European Prospective Investigation into Cancer
and Nutrition–Physical Activity, Nutrition,
Alcohol, Cessation of Smoking, Eating Out of
Home and Obesity (EPIC-PANACEA)
A prospective cohort study investigating nutrition and cancer, with the potential for studying other diseases.
10 European countries taking part, cancer incidence and cause-specific mortality to be followed for several
EPIC-PANACEA- A branch off the EPIC study above-same as above but looking at Obesity.
European Micronutrient Reccomendations
Alligned (EURRECA)
A Network of Excellence working to harmonise European micronutrient recommendations with a focus on a
strong scientific basis for recommendations and needs of vulnerable groups and impact of socio-economic,
ethnic and genetic factors.8 countries.
An integrated study of the nutritional status of European adolescents. Will look at intakes, choices and
preferences, obesity prevalence, dislipidemia, insulin resistance, vitamin and minerals status, immunological
markers for sub clinical malnutrition, physical activity and fitness patterns, and variations of the nucleotide
sequence in selected genes. 11 countries
Investigating cross-cultural differences in nutritional issues and life-style factors affecting health and
performance of elderly people in Europe. Using a mixed longitudinal design. Data regarding nutrient and
food intakes, diet habits, diet awareness, nutritional status, health, and life-style factors collected.11 countries
Commission FP6
The MONICA (Multinational Monitoring of
trends and determinants in Cardiovascular
disease) Project
Set up to explain the diverse trends in cardiovascular disease mortality which were observed from the 1970s
onwards. 21 countries took part. Ten million people monitored. The data are still being used for Ana lyses.
19 countries
The European Male Ageing
Study (EMAS)
A multicentre prospective cohort designed to examine the prevalence, incidence and geographical
distribution of gender-specific and general symptoms of ageing in men, including their endocrine, genetic
and psychosocial predictors. Men aged 40–79 years from eight European centres.
Prospective study of the association between vitamin D status, measured as serum concentrations of 25hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D), and the development of 7 rarer cancer sites. The cohorts come from 3
continents. Finland taking part.
Formed in 2008. It represents a collaboration of 15 cohorts from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada,
Netherlands, Sweden, and Finland. Studying genetic determinants of Vit D status.
Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in
Adolescence (The HELENA Project)
The Cohort Consortium Vitamin D Pooling
Project of Rarer Cancers (VDPP)
The SUNLIGHT consortium (Study of
Underlying Genetic Determinants of Vitamin D
and Highly Related Traits)
Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation Study
(The HOPE study)
Community FP6
A large, simple randomized trial of an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ramipril) and vitamin E in
patients at high risk of cardiovascular events. 3 European countries.
The Italian American clinical trial of nutritional
supplements and age-related cataract.
European Nutrition and Health Report (ENHR)
The ZENITH study (Zinc effects on Nutrient
Interactions and Trends in Health and Ageing)
ZINCAGE’ "Nutritional zinc, oxidative stress
and immunosenescence: biochemical, genetic
and lifestyle implications for healthy ageing"
The EARNEST programme (the Early
Nutrition Programming Project website.)
European Vascular Genomics Network
The European Commission (EC) initiated a Health Monitoring Programme,
The aim of the study was to investigate the effects of zinc, given as a nutritional supplement to late middleaged and older population groups, on psychological and behavioural factors and on surrogate cellular
markers. The project will provide a scientific basis for formulation of public health recommendations on
dietary zinc intake in aged Europeans. 14 European countries.
17 European research groups which will study biochemical, genetic and lifestyle factors for healthy ageing
with a particular focus on nutritional zinc, oxidative stress and immunosenescence. T
This project is a large collaborative investigation into the long-term consequences of early nutrition by
metabolic programming. It brings together a multi-disciplinary team of scientists from 38 institutions in 16
European countries.
Hepatic and adipose tissue and functions in the metabolic syndrome-looking at diogenes. Diet, obesity and
genes. Aims to provide tools to combat metabolic syndrome. 11 European countries.
European nutrigenomics organisation - linking genomics, nutrition and health research across Europe to
integrate research and create a network of excellence.10 European countries
Investigating the interaction of nutrients and genotype in the metabolic syndrome, also looking at lipid
metabolism. 10 European countries involved
Aims to maximise the impact of the post-genome era on vascular biology so as to optimise the conversion of
research results into concrete health, social and economic benefits.
Commission FP5
a EU 6th
Framework project
Countries involved the most in cross-European research projects (involved in 5 of the above projects or more): Belgium (7), UK (11), Norway (7),
Denmark (7), Finland (7), France (11), Germany (9), Hungary (6), Italy (10), Netherlands (10), Poland (7), Spain (9), Sweden (10),
1.2 Infrastructure and equipment.
 Uniform methods across countries of dietary assessment are needed. EPIC has set a
precedent for this with the dietary assessment lots of dietary assessment validation studies but
more of these kinds of studies are needed. Perhaps there could be better coordination and
agreement across Europe to use a certain types of dietary assessment and if different methods
are used what statistical methods should be used to compare findings from studies across
Europe. Guidelines on this could be set up and circulated to all nutrition centers across
 General procedures for running trials also needs to be harmonised, again EPIC has set a
very good example for this.
metalobomics/metabonomics. This is partly because nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and
mass spectroscopy (MS) are established techniques and partly because progress in other
techniques such as transcriptiomics and proteomics has been slow due to techniques in these
areas being technically challenging. The European commission has already set up the
European nutrigenomics organisation which should be sufficient infrastructure for networks to
form. Funding should be put into collaborative research projects and to train people as the
field needs more projects and trained personnel to speed up output-it seems there is a lot of
duplication of research currently and also centres which have equipment necessary for this
field are not being utilised fully, for example many medical/pharmaceutical/chemistry
departments have the equipment needed for the techniques used, so nutrition departments in
universities and/or private companies can collaborate with these departments. Therefore there
needs to be an engagement of molecular scientists/gentecists/chemsists into the nutrition field.
Nestle in Switzerland and Imperial College London have a nutritional metabonomics project
set up which aims to move towards personalised nutrition. Unilever PLC in the UK is also
involved in some metabonomics research with various universities. Other countries also
appear to collaborate with food companies. It seems this collaboration between public and
private partners could be increased and harmonised better across Europe.
1.3Major researcher groups.
It is difficult to say who the major research groups are as there huge amount of centres across
Europe involved in all the projects. The projects are led/coordinated by various research
groups in universities across Europe- University of Wageningen in The Netherlands stands out
as particularly coordinating a lot of projects. The International Agency for Research on
Cancer (IARC) part of the World Health Organisation also coordinates a lot of projects.
1.4 Network/resource
EuroFIR (European Food Information Resource) was a five-year Network of Excellence funded by
the European Commission's Research Directorate General under the "Food Quality and Safety
Priority" of the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.
The network involved 49 partners from universities, research institutes and small-to-medium sized
enterprises from 27 European countries. EuroFIR aimed to provide the first comprehensive panEuropean food information resource, using state-of-the-art database linking, to allow effective
management, updating, extending and comparability. One of the key achievements of the EuroFIR
project is the establishment of the EuroFIR AISBL new legal entity, which forms the basis of an
international, non-profit Association based in Belgium (Association Internationale Sans But
Lucratif; abbreviated AISBL).
The European Food Information Council (EUFIC) is a non-profit organisation which provides
science-based information on food safety & quality and health & nutrition to the media, health and
nutrition professionals and educators, in a way that promotes consumer understanding.
The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) is a non-profit, worldwide foundation established in
1978 to advance the understanding of scientific issues relating to nutrition, food safety, toxicology,
risk assessment, and the environment. By bringing together scientists from academia, government,
industry, and the public sector, ILSI seeks a balanced approach to solving problems of common
concern for the well being of the general public. ILSI Europe was established in 1986 to identify
and evaluate scientific issues related to the above topics through symposia, workshops, expert
groups, and resulting publications. The aim is to advance the understanding and resolution of
scientific issues in these areas. ILSI Europe focuses on the specific needs defined by the Institute’s
European partners. ILSI Europe is funded primarily by its industry members.
The European Research Area in Ageing 2 (ERA-AGE 2) is a three year project funded by the
European Commission, under the Seventh Framework Programme. ERA-AGE 2 aims to continue
the work of the highly successful ERA-AGE which ended in February 2009 after 5 years under the
Sixth Framework Programme. The project will secure, for the long term, the future of the European
Research Area in ageing research and launch Europe's first joint research programme on ageing.
All partners are also committed to delivering the second round of the pioneering FLARE
programme, progressively expanding the partnership and developing the resources on research
The European Public Health Association
The European Public Health Association, or EUPHA in short, is an umbrella organisation for public
health associations in Europe. EUPHA was founded in 1992. EUPHA is an international,
multidisciplinary, scientific organisation, bringing together around 12000 public health experts for
professional exchange and collaboration throughout Europe. They encourage a multidisciplinary
approach to public health
ESPEN-The European society for clinical nutrition and metabolism
ESPEN is dedicated to all issues relevant to the field of clinical nutrition and metabolism and
promotes: basic and clinical research, basic and advanced education, organization of consensus
statements about clinical care and care quality control. The aims of ESPEN are to encourage the
rapid diffusion of knowledge and its application in the field of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition or,
more broadly, Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism.
Metalobomics society: The Metabolomics Society is an independent, non-profit organization,
composed of dedicated members of the metabolomics community. The Metabolomics Society's
vision is to become the premier organization devoted to the development of metabolism-based
ISNN-International society of nutrigenetics/nutrigenomics
It is the purpose of the Society to increase understanding through research and education of
professionals and the general public of the role of genetic variation and dietary response and the role
2. Publications and Congresses
Cross-European project
Number of publications relating to microor macronutrients
The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and 63
Nutrition (EPIC)
European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and
Nutrition–Physical Activity, Nutrition, Alcohol, Cessation
of Smoking, Eating Out of Home and Obesity (EPICPANACEA)
European Micronutrient Reccomendations Alligned
Healthy Lifestyle in Europe by Nutrition in Adolescence
(The HELENA Project)
The MONICA (Multinational Monitoring of trends and
determinants in Cardiovascular disease) Project
The European Male Ageing
Study (EMAS)
The Cohort Consortium Vitamin D Pooling Project of
Rarer Cancers (VDPP)
The SUNLIGHT consortium (Study of Underlying
Genetic Determinants of Vitamin D and Highly Related
Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation Study (The HOPE
The Italian American clinical trial of nutritional
supplements and age-related cataract.
European Nutrition and Health Report (ENHR)
The ZENITH study
The EARNEST consortium
Pubmed search for Europe and individual micronutrients
Pubmed search
Europe AND
Vitamin A
B Vitamins
Vitamin C
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
Vitamin K
1) European Congress on Nutrition and Health in the Theme: Dietary patterns and ageing.
2) Federation of European Nutrition Societies (FENS) covers a very
wide range of topics
3) International congress of Nutrition covers a very wide range of topics
4) 2nd World Congress of Public Health Nutrition:
5) International Conference on Nutrigenomics (INCON)
Theme: gene-diet interactions for personalised health and disease prevention
6) Congress of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism covers a very wide range of topics
7) Metalobomics society congress: Breakthroughs in
plant, microbial and human biology, clinical and nutritional research, and biomarker
8) Congress of the International Society of Nutrigenetics/Nutrigenomics (ISNN) theme “From
reference intakes to personalized nutrition”
The above congresses have different themes every year –given below is the theme for the latest
3. Comparison of country reports
R&D activities; Investment in
infrastructures; Individual
researchers; Research group; SMEs,
Industry; NGO
Walloon Region- Department of Research
and Technologies (DG06)
A regional agency -IWT (Institute for the
Promotion of Innovation by Science and
Technology, Flanders)
National Center for Public Health
Military Medical Academy
Research institutes and universities
Research / Academic Organisations
or mutual benefit Organisations with a
permanent seat at the areas
controlled by the Cyprus Republic
(except the British bases’ areas).
Public and private beneficiaries
Public – Private
R&D activities
(good well defined description)
Faculty of Medicine in the University of
Tartu (
GEN-AU genome research (one of the highest funded projects in Austria) and two other
programmes named Programme for Research and Development at the Ministry of Life 2006
- 2010 (PFEIL 10) and LISA Life Sciences Austria are related to natural sciences and the
biomedical field of research so there is quite a bit of biomedical research.
However at the moment neither a national strategy nor a programme with special focus on food
and health research exist in Austria therefore Nutrition research can definitely be increased in a
targeted manner.
Not much food and health research in biomedical field especially related to micronutrients or
to nutrigenomics
Programmes: Nutrition and nutrition-related diseases, Physiology, Nutrigenomics,
Endocrinology, Nutrition and nutrition-related diseases, Functional foods.
Topic is well covered but need more funding for research for researchers and liaison with
government officials to ensure that EU funds are used effectively.
Programme: zProjects . Investigator-led basic research. Sufficient detail on types of biomedical
research not given, it appears more molecular research needed.
Health and biological sciences: Biomedicine Sciences and Biotechnology:
Nutrition and health, Chemistry and food technology, Gene technology, Biotechnology,
molecular biology and genetics. Biotechnology and medicine.
Area covered well but little industry involvement in research and could do with more funding.
Research programme of the Ministry of Health II & III: a lot of molecular research and very well
funded but has no specific public programme on food and health & industry involvement is not
-Interdisciplinary research programme on the relationship between food, nutrition and health:
Interactions between lifestyle and genes, including diet and microbiological resistance,
Interaction between nutrition, health perceptions and food consumption, including food
related diseases, Interaction between food and life quality
-Food Research Programme 2006 : Diet and genes including nutrigenomics
Area is well covered and well funded
NO ongoing programmes-one due to start 2010-details not available
To some extent the research includes the topics of food related diseases like coeliac disease, type
1 diabetes, obesity etc. In the department of microbiology and department of biochemistry research
is targeted also identifying new possible probiotics.
Small number of researchers and programmes, area not covered well despite being part of
the JPI. Same as Bulgaria –seems EU funds are not used effectively.
Nutrition, Food and Health (ELVIRA):Nutrition, genetic factors and metabolism - Food,
immunity, intestinal microbes and health. Area well covered and well funded. Good collaboration
between public and private. Have a strategy and specific food and health area.
Mainly universities
Public- Private
R&D activities
public research centers run by
Ministries of research
Area very well covered –a lot of research but could have more genetic/nutria-genomics
type research-very little research looking at genes.
R&D, Universities,institutes
Research is conducted by research centers
within the country’s academic institutions.
Area VERY well covered-one of the best for molecular research. Very well funded. Have a
national genome project
Medium level of research on food and health at the molecular level-could definitely be more
considering R&D budgets are quite high at the moment. Very good public-private partnerships. No
involvement in JPI.
RANNIS, the Icelandic Research fund
is the main actor involved in all
research in Iceland and covers all
fields of research, from natural
science to linguistics.
The INRAN, National Research
Institute for Food and Nutrition, is a
public research body under the
supervision of the Ministry of
Agriculture, Food and Forestry.
Government labs, institutes and
Alimentary Pharmobiotic Centre
Govt. institutes and universities
Do have a specific national
programme dedicated to food and
health and some institutes dedicates
Very little if any molecular/clinical research linking food to disease/health outcomes despite
being involved in JPI. There are very few public organisations being involved in the food and
health research. The research activities are concentrated mainly at 4 universities
Postgenomic Biomedicine Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (RANNIS)
Very little if any other molecular/clinical research linking food to disease/health
outcomes/little detail given on above program
Report is very unclear –section .1 is wrongly filled in-instead of “biomedical field” it has
research relevant to “production field. However it seems that the molecular area is covered
very well and is a key focus. INRAN is the only Italian institution whose research, training
and dissemination are addressed to the study of foodstuffs and their role in maintaining
health and preventing risk nutrition-related diseases. Part of JPI
JINGO – National Nutrition Phenotype Database, ELDERMET – Gut health in the Elderly
Area covered very well. Involved in JPI. Have national programmes for food and health.
The APC aims to deliver innovative research that establishes Ireland as a centre of
excellence in GI health, to help the development of indigenous industry and to attract
multinational companies to Ireland to instigate collaborative research programmes. The work
of the APC is of tangible importance to several industries, including human health
maintenance, agriculture, and animal husbandry, and is pitched at the interface of the food
and pharmaceutical sectors. There are two very significant industry partners involved in the
APC research programme – Alimentary Health Ltd., an Irish biotech company, and
National Research Program: The program aims at using clinical medicine, molecular genetics
and cell biology, medicinal chemistry and pharmaceutical methods to create new personalized
medical technologies and treatments for public health improvement. So area well covered. Not in
JPI, good involvement of private sector and EU funds already have been very helpful.
to biomedical research
R&D, Agency for International Science and
Technology Development, Lithuanian
Science and Studies Foundation,
International support (Welcome Trust fund,
collaboration with Oslo university);
Lithuanian Science and Studies Foundation,
Agency for International Science and
Technology Development
Centre de Recherche Public (Public
Research Center)
Research activities funded by the
universities, intermediary organizations and
Mainly institutes and universities
FCT Projectos de I&D (R&D Projects)
Institutes and universities
National Health System (NHS)
Biomedical Research Networking
Lund University
Research at Karolinska Intitutet
Research at Gothenburg University
Research at the Swedish University
of Agricultural Science
Research at Sahlgrenska Academy at
Gothenburg University
Uni Düsseldorf and participants
(Switzerland: Decanat Faculty of Medicine
Universite de Geneve CMU, University
Bioactive food components, mitochondrial functions and health; Fruit Plants as Producents
of Natural Anthocyanins - antioxidant activity, antimicrobial action, effects on bioenergetics of
cardiac cells, cardioprotective action; Dietary risk factors of cardiovascular disease, genenutrients interactions; The main objective is to improve understanding, monitoring and
control of lipid peroxidation in medicine and related biosciences and technologies. Very good
transparent report. Involved in JPI. Industry involvement quite weak.
Stress- and Nutrition-sensing Transcription Factors: Looking for Biomarkers in Atherosclerosis – A
Medium Throughput Screening Prospective Study, plus quite a few other molecular projects
Very much cellular lab work-no clinical trial work, medium level of molecular research overall, no
JPI involvement and little industry involvement.
Low level of research, low industry research and not involved in JPI.
High level of molecular research programmes. Leading country of JPI, good industry involvement
No research at the moment it seems but are plans to do some in the following areas1) health
blood-vessel-health society; 2) genetic indicator in diagnostic and development of the new
treatment methods 3) Stem cells in physiological and pathological conditions. Some industry
involvement but low cooperation between private and public research.
Good level of molecular research. Not involved in JPI. Good industry involvement.
Some research in this area. Involved in JPI. Seems to be good public-private partnership.
Not sufficient detail-looks like very little R*D activity despite being involved in JPI. And very
little funding
Very little research. Little industry involvement. Involved in JPI but only at a policy level.
High level of molecular research projects but more could be done in nutrigenomics area.
High industry involvement and good collaboration private-public. Involved in JPI.
Good level of research-overall medium level of molecular research such as nutrigenomics so
can be improved. There is alot of capacity building which is good. Involved in JPI. Good
industry involvement and good public-private collaboration.
High level of research. Not in JPI but lots of FP7 funded programmes. Very good industry
involvement and very good private-public partnership
Childrens Hospital, University Hospital
R+D for Agroscope(Swiss research stations
for agriculture, nutrition and environment)
I Studies and individual projects have
universities, public bodies and public
research institutes and funded by
their own budget.
Government funded: Universities and
Medical Research Council and Food
standards agency
Not sufficient detail. Appears the genetic engineering and biotechnology Institute may do
some molecular work but overall low level. Overall low level of R&D in general. Involved in
JPI. No integrated programme specific to the “food and health” research area to coordinate
related projects. The majority of the research implemented by institutions has been
supported by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) which
is responsible for promoting, developing, organizing, conducting and coordinating research
and development in line with national targets and priorities.
High level of molecular research. Medium level of industry involvement and medium level of
public-private partnership. Involved in JPI.
3.2 Overview
10 countries had a high level of molecular research with cutting edge research such as nutrigenomics. (UK, Switzerland, Netherlands, Lithuania,
Ireland, France, Finland, Denmark, and Czech Republic). 8 of these are involved in the JPI These countries ad a lot of research programmes.
8 countries had a medium level of research –they had good molecular research but could improved particularly in cutting edge research;
(Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Latvia, Luxembourg, Austria, Cyprus, Greece) 2 of these were involved in the JPI.
10 countries had a low level of molecular research both traditional and cutting edge. (Belgium, Croatia, Estonia, Poland, Romania, Slovenia,
Turkey). However 8 of these were involved in the JPI.Countries with low level general had poor R&D overall (apart from Belgium) and poor
industry involvement.
4. Reviewing the needs, gaps, overlaps: towards 2010
Food and health molecular research is progressing well to meet research challenges overall in
Europe. The effort is concentrated in a third of the countries and cutting edge research is
concentrated in a few countries. There has been a lot of work on micronutrients on an individual
country level and on a cross-European and international level. The focus has begun to shift from
micronutrients in the last 5 years due to micronutrient research not answering some key research
questions and due to lack of positive results; for example trials of micronutrients in relation to
cardiovascular and cancer outcomes. As epidemiological studies have always found a link
between cardiovascular disease and fruit and vegetable intake it was thought that the
micronutrient vitamins and minerals from this food groups was protective. But randomised
controlled trials with vitamin supplements and with fruit and vegetables have shown no effect.
The move is now towards looking at the whole diet/whole foods for example macronutrients and
different dietary patterns such as Mediterranean diets. There is has also been recognition of the
limitation of the current methods used for dietary methods and validating/trying to be innovative
with current data to get the most out of it but also move to try and develop more accurate dietary
assessment methods such as biomarkers.
4.1 Knowledge needs
Epic and EURRECA are excellent programmes. A similar programme to EURRECA is needed for
macronutrients. A similar programme to EPIC may be needed also for obesity as this is a big
challenge. Further investment in needed on both national and cross-European levels on ageing – it is
evident that is not covered sufficiently from a food and health perspective despite the European
commissions ERA-AGE programmes- food and health in relation to ageing needs to be added to this.
Only a few countries are looking at ageing. The New Dynamics of ageing programme which was
funded by ERA-AGE 1 has a programme called HALCyon ( which includes a
small bit on nutrition. This can be added to and built upon. More collaborative programmes are needed
to ensure better and uniform methods of dietary assessment across Europe. A more concerted effort is
needed across Europe to improve biomarker research. Perhaps a dietary assessment/biomarker
development group can be put together as improved methodology lies at the base of future diet and
health research. More collaborative programmes are needed so that data can be pooled for greater
statistical power to overcome some of the methodological issues to do with dietary assessment. More
national and cross-European level research in the area of Nutrigenomics is needed-it appears the area
is progressing slowly.
4.2 Significant research questions
Is the error involved in current dietary assessment methods obscuring diet-disease relationships? Are
there statistical methods that can be used/developed to minimise the error involved?
How does diet impact the new emerging markers of physical and cognitive ageing?
How is gene expression and metabolic responses affected by foods? (Nutrigenomics)
How can nutrigenomics enhance the predictive validity of assessing the genetic make-up for
susceptibility to disease? (nutrigeneteics leading to personalised nutrition).
How do macronutrients/dietary patterns relate to markers of disease?
Following results from EURRECA, current existing databases can be revaluated in terms of
micronutrients if the recommended amounts differ from the current recommendations.
4.3 Ways to organise research: priorities, developing agendas
There are also some recommendations in section1.2 and 4.1. As there is a need for coordination
and concerted European effort-methods that facilitate and enable this need to be put in place. An
organisation similar to the European nutrigenomics organisation can be set up for
biomarker/dietary assessment research. Networks such as those currently exist within FP6 and
FP7 could also be good for molecular diet-health research. Another possibility is a virtual food
and health institute which brings together a critical mass of researchers from all food and health
areas and this could have the following aims: Develop European food and health research, set up
joint European infrastructures, promote multi-disciplinary research and good practise, transfer
research to policy. Cross-European post-doctoral programmes that are well coordinated with the
fellowships being carried out in a minimum of two countries could be a way of ensuring uniform
training and infrastructure building. Mid-career researchers could also be encouraged to do
(European commission funded) fellowships in other countries that are doing similar research so
that there is better collaboration between countries. This is a particularly important for the
countries that have low and medium levels of research currently in the molecular area (see
section 3.2). More capacity building is needed in the area of nutrigenomics as the area is moving
relatively slowly, more researchers are needed and in more countries.
4.4 Interaction between public research and industry
Public sector first needs to make the most of its own resources and increase research and output
the areas of nutrigenomics and biomarker research as described in section 1.2. It can at the same
time or following this try to engage the public sector based on partnerships that have already
been successful as described in section 1.2. As nutrigenomics is a difficult area it is likely that
only big companies would be able to invest in this area. But biomarkers/macronutrients and
dietary patterns is an easier area and smaller companies should be able to invest here. It appears
that where industry is not getting readily involved itself-it needs to be engaged by the public
research area with the long benefit to industry being highlighted. Cellular/molecular mechanisms
that can be used by industry should be highlighted to them early on in the research process so
that can fund/provide expertise to get greater and quicker output.
5. Gaps and overlaps for further research
5.1 & 5.2 Structures & infrastructures
Section 3.2 identifies the countries with low, medium and high levels of research. For low level
countries in particular there needs to be an improvement in capacity building and more effective
inclusion into networks (involvement in the JPI does not seem to be doing some countries any
good). In some of these countries it appears that European funds are not being used effectively
because of the countries government so this needs to be investigated. The structures available in
the “high” countries need to be implemented in the other countries. Suggestions of how this can
be done are made in sections 4.1 and 4.3 and below.
5.3 Ways to organise research
This is described in sections 4.3 and 4.4. Research needs to be organised so that there is good
collaboration between countries so that there can be a concerted effort but also so that
infrastructures and methods can be made the same across Europe. Collaboration between
institutes and researchers in different countries is very important for this. If the European
commission could fund fellowships for early and mid career researchers in other countries this
would be an excellent way of forming links and sharing training and expertise. But also creates
meetings/programs/networks where researchers can meet. Involving a critical mass of European
researchers in research programs is also important. ERA-AGE being a good example of this-a
network such as this can be set up for molecular dietary research.
6. Conclusions and proposals
6.1 Research fields & 6.2 Research organisation, structures and
There is a lot of duplication of research on a country level. Particularly in the micronutrients area.
This can be avoided for future research by creating cross-European consortiums (and other
recommendations made in sections 4 and 5) for the remaining key micronutrients of Vitamin D, Iron,
polyphenols, B Vitamins and folate in relation to different disease areas. The same can be done for
macronutrients and dietary patterns. As biomarkers and nutrigenomics are relatively new areas it will
be even easier to set cross-European structures in place (as recommended in sections 4 and 5) to ensure
a concerted European effort and to avoid duplication of research.