Food4Health is a collaboration between EIT Health and EIT Food. Launched in 2019, it aims to mobilise major European players from industry, government, research and education, to improve the health and well-being of European citizens with innovations for healthy eating.
A nutritionally balanced diet helps to maintain a healthy mind and body. Yet, making healthy food choices is not always as easy as it seems. Obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes are commonly caused by excess calorie intake and the consumption of foods high in fat, sugar and salt. As the prevalence of these diseases is on the rise, the awareness of the importance of food in overall health and wellbeing is lacking.
Our nutrition requirements also vary depending on our age and our physical and emotional status. By adjusting our diet, food can also be used to prevent or recover faster from illness. To take full advantage of this, there is a need to better understand the role of food in healthcare.
As these issues are best addressed via a multisector approach, EIT Health and EIT Food have combined forces to build the Food4Health collaboration. Through their joint activities, the strengths and expertise of the partners of both networks can be leveraged to make a greater impact in the area of food and health.
By establishing the Food4Health collaboration, the two networks aim to:
In the coming years, we intend to strengthen the collaboration through the delivery of the outcomes of the two projects and by initiating other projects and activities that link food and health. The long-term goal is to establish a way of working that can be sustained for many years to come.
Metabolic Syndrome (MetSyn) is the combination of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist, high cholesterol and high blood lipid levels. Having these conditions can lead to increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes with such diseases accounting for 86% of deaths in Europe. MetSyn and related diseases are often linked to eating high-calorie, low-fibre foods and reduced physical activity. At least 25% of adults suffer from MetSyn, while many more exhibit several of the risk factors without knowing. By reversing these conditions through changes in consumer behaviour, it is possible to prevent MetSyn as well as the development of more serious diseases. The project STOP MetSyn aims to help up to 100 million European consumers who appear healthy but may exhibit one or more of the conditions linked to MetSyn. It will deliver methods, tools and strategies to help consumers make better choices in their eating and lifestyle habits.
30-85% of patients undergoing cancer treatment suffer from malnutrition. This is the result of reduced food intake due to stress, pain, and swallowing problems combined with increased energy usage, inflammation and vitamin deficiencies. Anti-cancer treatments can make things worse by causing nausea, sickness, loss of appetite, and taste alteration, all of which accelerates weight loss. However, it is the loss of muscle mass in particular that increases the likelihood of complications, which negatively affects the prognosis and survival rate of cancer patients. Maintaining muscle mass is therefore of critical importance in enabling patients to fully benefit from cancer treatment. The project MuscleCancer aims to address this challenge by incorporating nutrition and exercise into cancer treatment programs to prevent malnutrition and muscle mass loss in cancer patients. Through the combined partnership of EIT Food and EIT Health, experts in diagnostics, nutrition and physical activity together with healthcare providers are well-positioned to drive innovations that can make an impact in this field.
In December 2019, Food4Health conducted a survey with consumers regarding the choices they make in their diet and lifestyle. We were interested to know whether consumers consider themselves to be healthy, whether they know what they need to change to become healthier and if they are willing to make the change in the short term. Two hundred adult citizens completed the survey of 10 questions about their health and lifestyle.
In the inaugural year of the Cross-KIC Food4Health, EIT Food and EIT Health mobilised major European players from their networks to commit to a shared strategy; to provide European citizens with new food and lifestyle products and services to improve their health.
To initiate the programme, the two projects, STOP MetSyn and MuscleCancer, were launched. Despite having only 4 months to complete the 2019 tasks, the partners successfully realised all deliverables, outputs and KPIs. The project teams will use these outcomes as a basis for the continuation of the projects in 2020.
On the 23rd October 2019, Food4Health launched the 2nd call for Expressions of Interest for the 10 tasks that will be conducted in the two projects – STOP MetSyn and MuscleCancer – in 2020.
When applications closed on 20 November, 49 Expressions of Interest had been submitted either from individual partners or teams. Applications were received from 34 partners: 12 from EIT Food, 19 from EIT Health and 3 who are partners of both networks. The applicants included universities, research institutes, hospitals and industry partners, representing all regionals hubs from both networks.
With project teams confirmed, Food4Health's first two projects officially launched on 1 September and held their kick-off meetings shortly after: the STOP MetSyn team met 20 September and MuscleCancer met 10 October.
These projects, the first in the new Food4Health programme, aim to address specific health challenges faced by both consumers and patients through the development of nutrition, exercise and lifestyle intervention programmes.