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.
Food4Health has had the opportunity to showcase our activities at two events in Germany in 2020. The first event was the Fairtrade Brunch & Market held in Eching in September and the second was presenting posters about Food4Health at the Barmer health insurance office in Freising. These events have allowed us to engage with consumers, to raise awareness of the importance of food and lifestyle on one’s health.
Previous research has shown that cancer patients actively seek information about how they can improve their treatment. However, the most accessible information is not always the most advisable. As a way to address this issue, Food4Health will develop an app co-designed with patients, family caregivers and health care providers that will facilitate access to information that is truthful, accurate and reliable.
Malnutrition is common in patients suffering from cancer. A combination of various factors, such as stress and pain, may diminish their nutrient intake during the illness. Moreover, in addition to the troubles caused by the disease, those associated with the treatments – more troublesome in terms of diet – must be taken into account. Taste and smell alterations, nausea, vomiting and, consequently, loss of appetite, result in lower energy intake with accelerated weight loss, generally, from muscle mass loss. This loss worsens the prognosis for patients. To be optimally fit to sustain treatment, patients need to be well-nourished.
One of the major challenges in moving towards a healthier society is helping consumers to make better food and lifestyle choices. Within the STOP MetSyn project, we are addressing this issue by understanding the actual consumer behaviour and habits and working together with consumers to develop strategies to help them to adopt healthier habits.