A common Strategic Research Agenda of 22 countries in Europe focusses on lifesyle changes towards healthy diets and improved physical activity. Biomarker research, nutrigenomics, perzonalized food supplies and the prevention of chronic lifestyle related diseases are key-fields of the Joint Programming Inititative " A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life." ( JPI HDHL) The EU-project "afresh" which regards jointly physical activity and nutrition, presented main findings during the congress, held in The Hague, Netherlands.
Unhealthy diets and a lack of physical activity are the main determinants for obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases. The rising prevalence of these diseases - globally and in Europe- poses such individual and societal risks, that research communities of 22 European countries decided to align their research programmes in food, health and physical activity in a Joint Programming Inititiative. Round 400 researchers, policy and economic stakeholders gathered on the first conference of this Joint Programming Initiative "A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life". The authors of the Initiative`s main documents point out that 80%-90 % of diet-related dieseases could potentially be avoided by changing lifestyle factors: "There is such a pressing need to quantify physical activity and sedentary behaviour combined with research on food choice and dietary intake to gain full insight into energy balance and obesity in European populations".
Supported by the EU Council, the intiators of the Initiative collaborate since 2010 in a well-developed management structure with a Management Board, a Scientific Advisory Bord and a Stakeholder Advisory Board. The main goal of the JPI is to better coordinate national research programmes and projects in health and diet related research as well as to complement resources and to avoid costly dupliction. Member States will have to deliver the necessary infrastructure to shape the capacity tackling the main societal challenges of the chronic lifestyle related dieseases. The Strategic Research Plan, which was drafted under the chair of the Scientific Advisory Board, Professor Hannelore Daniel from TU Munich, Germany, points out the need of cross-disciplinary as well as mulit-disciplinary efforts for an elucidation of the complexe determinants of unhealthy lifestyles which may ly in biological, physiological, social, social economic, behavioral, technological and spatial causes. Too high energy-density of complexe food supply is also regarded as one of the crucial factors as well as contemporary lifestyle patterns shaped by electronic lifestyles and stress as well as worsening social conditions.
The Strategic Research Agenda focusses on three research areas, all starting with data mapping, harmonization of methords and encompassing the establishment of research plattforms between 2012 and 2014. Between 2015 and 2019 the JPI aims at focussing on three main fields in the following primary initiatives:
- Determinants of diets and physical activity by conduction of intervention studies relating to real-life conditions
- Understanding the impact of various food intake on metabolism in various population groups, including the elderly, and develop healthy, high quality and sustainable food supply. By 2030 consumers in Europe should have the easy choice by healthy choices ( biochemistry, technology and consumer research)
- Preventing diet-realted chronic diseases by opening databases and the initiaitve of pan-European prospective studies on the diet-health relationship, including phenotype analyzes and deliveries of healthy diets
Key elements in all areas will be bio-marker research, database sharing and new nutrigenomics. Given the rapid change in nutrition research toward a new focus on physiological functions of health, extensive phenotyping will allow more insights in bio-markes and new personalized approaches. " Nutrition studies goe `big data`", pinpointed Ben van Ommern, researcher at the Dutch TNO insitute. A network of already 43 universities in Europe share nutritional phenotype data. To broaden the open access to these infrastructures the JPI will create a Knowledge Hub which has as a goal to derive from phenotype data the dietary strategies. The JPI will take stock on the outcomes of EU research projects such as LIPGENE, DIOGENES, NUTRITECH, NUAGE, NUGO,EURODISH. EARNEST, PREVENTCD, EARLY NUTRITON, HELGA and EPIC.
Centring around personaiized supplies for the support of lifestyle changes constiute the core- findings in the "afresh" project which was presented at the JPI conference by PRofessor Xavier Gellynck, Ghent University, Belgium. "afresh" delivered its Joint Research Action Plan by focussing on four main target groups: children and younger people, disadvantaged population, elderly and employees at worksite. The "afresh" Plan offers 32 ideas for further elaboration, ranging from individual product and service solutions until worksite health intervention strategies and social-innovation-oriented urban gardening for disadvantaged as well as social campaigning. Regional policymakers are invited to start regional health action plans to implement strategies soon.