Category: News

MuscleCancer – Empowering patients

Digital tools to empower cancer patients during their treatment in nutritional and physical activity

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.

To carry out this task in the MuscleCancer project, we have brought together a team made up of AZTI, Danone Nutricia Research and BeYou that forms an ideal collaboration. AZTI has experience in sensory and consumer science and cancer-related nutrition and will provide scientifically proven content about tips for treatments side-effects and nutritional recommendations. Danone Nutricia Research studies specific nutrients and their potential roles in improving outcomes for cancer patients and will bring its expertise in behaviour, consumer and sensory sciences to the design of the app involving users in the process. And finally, BeYou will apply its experience in design thinking, mobile apps development and the use of innovative gamification algorithms to create custom-fit nutrition and wellness solutions.

The functionalities of the app have been defined in co-creation with cancer patients and health care professionals, through focus groups and questionnaires conducted in Spain by AZTI and Danone Nutricia Research. Some of the pain points presented by the patients are the lack of specific information about precise nutrition and physical activity recommendations during the treatment. Because nutritionist and physical activity specialists are not always included in the health care team, the patients may not receive this information. With that in mind, BeYou is prototyping an app that connects patients with certified health care professionals. The app will provide customized meal plans and physical activity workouts, tailored for each patient based on their needs. Whenever the patient fulfils their nutrition and activity goals, exclusive rewards are unlocked that will be strategically selected to keep them engaged and motivated to reach their next objectives. By doing so, we hope to improve the adherence of cancer patients to nutrition and physical activity recommendations, reducing the impact of malnutrition and promote a better overall quality of life.

Food4Health project MuscleCancer

Tackling Muscle Mass Loss in Cancer Patients Through Nutrition Solutions and Lifestyle Interventions

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.

The Food4Health project MuscleCancer looks to define different solutions for muscle mass preservation, involving aspects such as physical activity, eating habits and the development of mobile applications that respond to patients’ information, physical and nutrition monitoring needs.

Specific interventions through tailormade nutrition or physical activity programs may prevent cancer-related muscle loss. Yet, nutritional and physical interventions are not routinely prescribed or start too late. When muscle loss is already ongoing, the window of benefit may have passed. Demonstrating the benefit of such interventions and the best conditions to implement them creates the opportunity to integrate them in standard cancer treatment. This project will address the need for knowledge, service and validation of solutions for muscle mass preservation. This will be achieved via:

  • Tools to dynamically measure muscle mass
  • Tailormade medical nutritional solutions
  • Tailormade activity/exercise programs
  • Digital tools/services to enable and empower patients and healthcare professionals

STOP MetSyn consumer behaviour

Helping consumers make better food and lifestyle choices

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. 

One of the tasks within this EIT Food4Health initiative, led by Dr Elena Millan from the University of Reading, aims at mapping consumers’ eating habits, food choices and physical activity aspect of their lifestyles in different European countries. Building on strong theoretical grounds from a wide range of research areas reviewed through ‘rapid evidence assessment’ during the first phase of the project, key drivers of peoples’ eating habits and lifestyle choices are also considered. Nationally representative data of 1000 study participants in the UK, France and Germany is collected through online surveys. In addition to generating a comprehensive up-to-date knowledge of the dietary habits and physical activity patterns of the generally healthy European consumers, the project findings will feed directly ideas into the development of a new app for healthy eating and physical activity, aimed at stimulating and sustaining a positive behavioural change.

Additionally, a large team of researchers from Psychology, Behavioral Economics and Social Marketing, led by Dr Julia Vogt at the University of Reading (UK) and by Prof Agnès Helme-Guizon at the University Grenoble Alpes (France) is co-creating with consumers strategies to eat healthier and be physically active. The team was interested to know what consumers themselves consider to be important factors and drivers for a change of lifestyle and what ideas they have to make such changes sustainable. Consumers in France, Belgium, the UK, and the Republic of Ireland were invited to online communities to share their experiences and ideas and to create new solutions together for two weeks.

When asked what makes healthy eating difficult, most consumers referred to little time and feeling stressed, down, or simply tired. Proposed solutions therefore focussed on making a healthy lifestyle easier such as by having easy and quick recipes for healthy meals readily available on an app. The participants also underlined how important it is to plan well and monitor whether one is going through with a plan for a healthy meal or a unit of exercising. In order to achieve sustainable changes, consumers underlined the importance of engaging in a healthy lifestyle that is also enjoyable. For instance, consumers from all four countries described how sharing a healthy meal with friends or loved ones or how exercising in nature as ways to look after oneself or one’s family’s well-being helps to find a healthy lifestyle motivating and enjoyable.

Food4Health Project STOP MetSyn

Using indicators to influence consumer behaviour and prevent pre-disease through food and lifestyle-related interventions

Metabolic syndrome (MetSyn) represents a clustering of conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and diabetes. MetSyn is present in approximately 25% of all adults with increased prevalence in advanced ages. What is commonly unknown is that having MetSyn increases the risk of developing other serious diseases, such as heart disease and stroke. Many people exhibit risk factors but are not even aware of their condition.

MetSyn and related diseases have become the major health hazard of the modern world. Such diseases contribute to 41 million deaths each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally. The two major factors contributing to MetSyn are the increased consumption of high calorie-low fibre fast food and the decrease in physical activity due to sedentary form of work and leisure time activities. Therefore, by changing consumer behaviour, MetSyn can be prevented thus reducing this major health threat to European citizens.

Given the high prevalence of MetSyn in association with the general lack of awareness of the disease, the goal of this project is to gain a better understanding of the indicators that are linked to MetSyn, and develop effective strategies for reversing the disease by

  • Establishing a science-based methodology for measuring pre-metabolic syndrome in Europe
  • Developing a pre-disease prevention program for measuring pre-metabolic syndrome in the broader European community
  • Establishing a strategy to engage the European population to adopt a healthier lifestyle by preventing and tackling pre-metabolic syndrome, and
  • Performing a real-life test in Europe combining measurement, tooling, and strategies to engage and coach consumers towards a healthier lifestyle.

Consumer survey on diet and lifestyle

Do consumers consider themselves to be healthy?

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.

When asked how healthy they feel, almost 2/3 of the participants responded that they felt pretty or very healthy with less than 10% indicating that they were not very healthy or very unhealthy. Yet, almost 40% of participants indicated that their diet was just ok with almost 20% responding that it was not very healthy or very unhealthy. In terms of activity, most participants were either moderately or very active (84%). Of the participants who responded, 50% indicated that they would be willing to make a change to become healthier. Proposed changes included eating healthier foods, being more active, eating fewer sweets and less meat. The complete results of the survey can be found here.

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EIT Food is a network of industry, academic and research partners, set up to transfer our food system. By connecting consumers with businesses, start-ups researchers and students from around Europe, EIT Food supports innovative initiatives that improve our health, our access to quality food and our environment.


EIT Health is a network of best-in-class health innovators backed by the EU. We deliver solutions to enable European citizens to live longer, healthier lives by promoting innovation. We connect the right people to work on societal challenges across European borders so that innovation can happen at the intersection of research, education and business.