Savvas Xystouris's Posts (34)

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Vitamin D (VitD) is essential for developing and maintaining a healthy skeleton, and it has been linked to reduced risk for acute and chronic illnesses [1]. VitD deficiency is associated with obesity, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, beta-cell dysfunction, autoimmune diseases, and cancer [2]. Several factors can influence VitD status, including sunlight, diet, and dietary VitD supplements. Besides, lifestyle factors such as for overweight, obesity, and sedentarism also influence VitD status [3].

In Chile, a limited number of studies conducted on healthy children have shown evidence of the impact of nutritional status and sunlight exposure on VitD levels [4].

The researchers found 80.4% of children had serum 25(OH)D deficiency, with 1.7% severe, 24.6% moderate, and 54.1% mild. In the three cities, the percentage of serum 25(OH)D deficit was increased when comparing overweight or obesity with a healthy weight. Additionally, an interaction effect was observed between geographic area, nutritional status, and serum 25(OH)D levels using the factorial ANOVA test (p = 0.038). In Antofagasta, there were more overweight children and also a higher percentage of children with VitD deficiency (<30 ng/ml) compared to Santiago or Concepción.

To read the article: Vitamin D status and obesity in children from Chile


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Cultural and linguistic differences across EU Member States make it difficult to harmonize on-pack health claims communication in the F&B arena. This is according to the latest update from Health Claims Unpacked, an EU-wide, EIT Food-funded research project founded in 2019.

NutritionInsight catches up with contributing researcher Dr. Chris Ryder as his team continues to investigate the “healthy” versus “normal” debate and how language affects EU enforcement policies.

Ryder is a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics at the University of Reading, UK.

Health claim reluctance
Many manufacturers are reluctant to use health claims on-pack to avoid overly complicated references and the differences in how regulation is enforced in different countries. These labeling choices result in consumers receiving less information about the nutritional value of their food.

Cultural considerations
According to Health Claims Unpacked’s research, cultural ideas about food and eating affect how consumers respond to health claims. In France, for example, the concept of food is largely focused around the pleasure in eating, and so French consumers are less interested in nutrition at this level.

To read more, please visit Cultural norms & linguistic diversity impact Europeans’ on-pack health claims understanding, finds EU-wide study

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The term grain applies to plants of the Poaceae grass family and includes cereal grains and pseudocereals. All grains that belong to the Poaceae family are composed of the starchy endosperm, the germ and the outer bran layer ( HEALTHGRAIN Consortium 2013 ).

Pseudocereals such as buckwheat and quinoa have a similar macronutrient composition to cereals, and they are often included in the bread cereal group. They are of great significance for persons suffering from intolerance to gluten (e.g. coeliac disease), contained in most cereals, and at the same time they allow for a wider consumer choice ( HEALTHGRAIN Consortium 2013 ).

There is no legally endorsed definition of whole grain and whole grain products and foods at the European level. In European Union agricultural legislation, whole grains are referred as 'grains from which only the part of the end has been removed, irrespective of characteristics produced at each stage of milling ( EU Regulation 1308/2013 ) EU Regulation No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products and repealing Council Regulations (EEC) No 922/72, (EEC) No 234/79, (EC) No 1037/2001 and (EC) No 1234/2007 . The European Food Safety Authority ( EFSA 2010 ), in a whole-grain related health claim opinion, provides the definition of the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC), which states that whole grain 'consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis, whose principal anatomical components - the starchy endosperm, germ and bran - are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis' ( AACC 2000 ). Table 1 provides an overview of the available definitions and the grains that are included in each of them.

Taking into consideration that whole grain products from all cereal grains have higher levels of dietary fibre and bioactive compounds than their refined equivalents, and in line with the suggestion that a whole grain definition should be suitable for both dietary recommendation and labelling purposes, the definitions of AACC and HEALTHGRAIN ( HEALTHGRAIN Consortium 2013 ) allow for both cereals and pseudocereals to be characterised as whole grain. Some examples of whole grains included in the aforementioned definitions are whole wheat, oatmeal, whole-grain cornmeal, brown rice, whole-grain barley, whole rye, and buckwheat ( AACC 2012b ).

Whole grains can be eaten in cooked form (after boiling) as a food on their own, for instance brown rice (wild, red, black), oatmeal, and corn (maize). However, in most cases, whole grains are further processed and thus deliver a variety of edible and safe products for human consumption (e.g. whole grain flour). This processing results in an alteration of the grain's physical form and may also affect the nutritional value of the grain.

To read the post (4/11/21) visit Defining whole grain- Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Knowledge Gateway

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Promoting healthy diets -WHO

A healthy diet helps to protect against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as a range of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and other conditions. However, increased production of processed foods, rapid urbanization and changing lifestyles have led to a shift in dietary patterns. People are now consuming more foods high in energy, fats, free sugars and salt/sodium, and many people do not eat enough fruit, vegetables and wholegrains.

Diet can depend on an individual’s food choices, but also the availability and affordability of healthy foods and sociocultural factors. Therefore, promoting a healthy food environment requires involvement across multiple sectors and stakeholders, including government, the public and the private sector.

Governments have a central role in creating a healthy food environment that enables people to easily adopt and maintain healthy dietary practices. Effective actions by policy-makers include:

  • Coordinating trade, food system and agricultural policies with the protection and promotion of public health;
  • Encouraging consumers’ demand for healthy foods and meals; and
  • Promoting healthy nutrition across the life course.

The WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health was adopted in 2004 by the World Health Assembly. It called on governments, WHO, international partners, the private sector and civil society to take action at global, regional and local levels to support healthy diets and physical activity.

Check the WHO page and the resources here: Promoting healthy diets

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"Our dietary habits have effects on our health and well-being. A healthy diet provides us with energy and vital nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, fibre, and phytochemicals that fuel and nourish our bodies. Unhealthy food choices, in contrast, increase the risk of chronic diseases related to poor health outcomes: obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.

Traditionally, public health nutrition campaigns were based on a “one-diet-fits-all” approach and used food pyramids and/or portion sizes to make recommendations at a population level. However, we are all unique and have different health needs, nutritional requirements, and personal preferences. Dietary advice given at the population level may therefore not suit everybody. That’s why our Stance4Health app will create personalised nutrition programs that provide dietary advice based on the individual situation of each person. Ultimately, we aim to improve dietary behaviour to promote healthy food choices and a balanced diet in the long term.

People differ in many ways and these differences affect how our bodies respond to certain foods and nutrients. Genotypic differences such as our sex and phenotypic characteristics like age, body size, health status, allergies, and intolerances influence our nutritional requirements. The composition of our gut microbiota varies between individuals and may be altered causing bloating or diarrhoea. Moreover, our physical activity levels play an important role, and people with an active lifestyle may have higher nutritional requirements than sedentary individuals. Additionally, our dietary behaviour is determined by religious beliefs, personal values (e.g., vegans or vegetarians), and sensory preferences. Personalised nutrition provides dietary advice based on all these differences creating a balanced diet suitable for the individual."

Click to see the infographic here: STANCE4HEALTH Infographic

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The Dialogue on Tea and Coffee, part of World Food Day celebrations hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), focused on the tea and coffee sectors and their importance as a vital source of income and employment for millions of people in developing countries. Smallholder farmers and farming households produce an estimated 60 percent and 80 percent, respectively, of the global tea and coffee outputs. Both sectors underpin the lives of millions of labourers, including women and their families, and are important contributors to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Our dialogue today constitutes a renewed commitment to celebrate peace, unity and exchange between civilizations and cultures,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in his opening speech. “It also serves to highlight the achievements of tea and coffee farmers across the globe, and to remind all of us of the challenges that lie ahead.”

To read the article, follow this link: Tea and coffee: celebrating their cultural, social and economic importance

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  • The study included 12,164 individuals from three European population-based cohorts.
  • The median age was 59 years and 55% were women. During the baseline study visit, cardiovascular risk factors and comorbidities such as smoking, obesity, diabetes and cholesterol were assessed via a thorough clinical assessment including blood samples.
  • Participants were classified as iron deficient or not according to two definitions: 1) absolute iron deficiency, which only includes stored iron (ferritin); and 2) functional iron deficiency, which includes iron in storage (ferritin) and iron in circulation for use by the body (transferrin).

Dr. Schrage explained: "Absolute iron deficiency is the traditional way of assessing iron status but it misses circulating iron. The functional definition is more accurate as it includes both measures and picks up those with sufficient stores but not enough in circulation for the body to work properly."

"The study showed that iron deficiency was highly prevalent in this middle-aged population, with nearly two-thirds having functional iron deficiency," said Dr. Schrage. "These individuals were more likely to develop heart disease and were also more likely to die during the next 13 years."

Dr. Schrage noted that future studies should examine these associations in younger and non-European cohorts. He said: "If the relationships are confirmed, the next step would be a randomised trial investigating the effect of treating iron deficiency in the general population."

To read the article: Iron deficiency in middle age is linked with higher risk of developing heart disease

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Most secondary school pupils are not eating enough breakfast before the start of school lessons, according to new research.

  • Up to two-thirds of girls and half of boys either skip breakfast completely or do not consume enough food before lunch is served.
  • Children in economically challenged households are far less likely to have breakfast than their classmates in more prosperous areas.

The research, carried out by the University of Leeds, surveyed almost 2,500 pupils at 18 secondary schools in Northern Ireland. Led by Reverend Peter Simpson of the School of Food Science and Nutrition, the study is the first of its kind to gather information about the breakfast eating habits of Northern Ireland’s secondary school pupils. Such information is usually obtained as part of the Health Behaviour of School Children (HBSC) survey conducted by the World Health Organisation. Northern Ireland is one of the few European countries not to take part.The research follows earlier studies in other parts of the UK that found links between eating breakfast and improved behaviour, enhanced thinking skills, and better overall school performance.

To read the article: Breakfast skipped by thousands of Northern Ireland secondary school pupils


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The HealthyLifestyle4All Initiative

The Commission has launched the HealthyLifestyle4All campaign to promote a healthy lifestyle for all, across generations and social groups, with the objective to improve the health and well-being of Europeans. Linking sport and active lifestyles with health, food and other policies, this two-year campaign involves civil society, non-governmental organisations, national, local and regional authorities and international bodies. All involved will implement several actions for Europeans to be more active and more mindful of their health.

The actions will support the three objectives of the HealthyLifestyle4All campaign:

  • Raise more awareness for healthy lifestyles across all generations;
  • Support an easier access to sport, physical activity and healthy diets, with a special focus on inclusion and non-discrimination to reach and involve disadvantaged groups;
  • Promote a global approach across policies and sectors, linking food, health, well-being and sport.

All participating organizations can submit a commitment for concrete actions in the online Pledge Board. Several EU countries and organisations, such as the International and European Olympic Committees, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the International School Sport Federation, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) already submitted their contribution, with many more to be expected.

To read more: The HealthyLifestyle4All Initiative

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Globally 1.3 billion tons of edible food is wasted every single year. 20% of the total food produced in the European Union is wasted or lost along the supply chain.

  • Food waste is a huge environmental problem, with 8% of GHGs produced as a result of this food rotting in landfill.
  • In the EU 33 million people cannot afford a quality meal every second day.

Preventing food waste improves the resilience of the food supply chain, helps our planet, and contributes to food security. That is where Food Banks come in. Food businesses donate their surplus food to Food Banks, which, in turn, will get that perfectly good food to charities helping deprived people who can enjoy it. The world’s first Food Bank was created in 1967 in Phoenix, USA. Following this example, the first European Food Bank was established in 1984 Paris, France and the second one in 1986 Brussels, Belgium. In 1986, France and Belgium joined forces to create the European Food Banks Federation (FEBA). Over the past 35 years FEBA has been fostering the development and creation of Food Banks in countries across Europe.

In March FEBA launched the COVID-19 Social Emergency Fund to ensure the daily activity of members and have released 4 reports to highlight challenges, urgent needs, adaptation to change, and concrete responses. Members have worked to get surplus food from food business operators and ensure its safe delivery to charities helping +34.7% people in need compared to 2019.  

Today, FEBA network brings together 430 Food Banks and branches in 29 European countries. Every day they recover safe and edible surplus food from the agri-food supply chain such as agriculture, food and drink manufacturers, distribution and food services. The food recovered is stored, sorted and re-packaged in the warehouses. Then, the food is redistributed to charitable organisations, such as food pantries, soup kitchens, social restaurants, and shelters. And from there, the food ends up on the plate of the people who need it most.

European Food Banks are supported by an army of volunteers. Their acts of kindness and commitment make a real difference.

Food donation is a beneficial solution to prevent food waste and reduce food insecurity: it is a business friendly, environmentally sensitive, and socially responsible alternative.

To learn more visit Reducing food insecurity and food waste – the European Food Banks Federation and watch the video About the European Food Banks Federation.


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In the lead up to the World Food Forum (WFF) global event in October, the WFF launched today its Champions Programme, an initiative that mobilizes young, influential change-makers to raise global awareness about issues and events related to agri-food systems transformation. Harnessing the power of social media and digital communications, the WFF Champions Programme is a vehicle to engage and empower youth worldwide to find new, actionable, innovative, and inclusive solutions to current and future agri-food challenges.

The WFF Champions Programme identifies young leaders and influencers from regions and countries around the world who have a passion for creating a better food future and who will leverage their respective platforms and influence to bring positive change. 

To read more, visit World Food Forum ‘Champions Programme’ mobilizes young, influential change-makers to raise awareness of global agri-food systems

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  • A high-fat diet disrupts the biology of the gut's inner lining and its microbial communities -- and promotes the production of a metabolite that may contribute to heart disease, according to a study published Aug. 13 in the journal Science.
  • The discoveries in animal models support a key role for the intestines and microbiota in the development of cardiovascular disease, said Mariana Byndloss, DVM, PhD, assistant professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The intestines, she noted, have been relatively understudied by scientists seeking to understand the impact of obesity. "Before COVID, obesity and metabolic syndrome were considered the pandemic of the 21st century. Right now, roughly 40% of the U.S. population is obese, and that percentage is predicted to climb," Byndloss said. "Our research has revealed a previously unexplored mechanism for how diet and obesity can increase risk of cardiovascular disease -- by affecting the relationship between our intestines and the microbes that live in our gut."

"It was known that exposure to a high-fat diet causes dysbiosis -- an imbalance in the microbiota favoring harmful microbes, but we didn't know why or how this was happening," Byndloss said. "We show one way that diet directly affects the host and promotes the growth of bad microbes."

To read the article: Study reveals missing link between high-fat diet, microbiota and heart disease

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Course overview

The course focuses on the relationship between food, brain and mind:

  • How does the brain work?
  • How do emotions and thoughts affect our food choices?
  • How do diets and nutritional deficiencies affect our brain?
  • Reward systems and their relationship with food
  • The link between the microbiome and brain


The course will have multiple runs in 2021 and 2022.  

The link to the course: Food for Thought: The Relationship Between Food, Gut and Brain

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  • The swift and necessary public health response to the covid-19 pandemic has had detrimental consequences for the prevention and management of childhood obesity, a concern critically in need of public health action. Although children are not as severely affected by covid-19 as adults—experiencing fewer or no symptoms—the public health response to mitigate its spread has exacerbated several risk factors for childhood obesity.
  • Extended lockdowns and social distancing measures have increased children’s exposure to obesogenic environments and disrupted their participation in health promoting behaviours.
  • Childhood obesity affects an estimated 50 million girls and 74 million boys worldwide. These children are at greater risk of developing related functional, metabolic, and psychological conditions; experiencing pervasive weight bias and stigma; and having greater healthcare costs.
  • Childhood obesity is strongly correlated with risk of adult obesity and poor health, with considerable social and economic consequences.
  • Despite efforts, no country is on track to meet the targets set out by the World Health Organization’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (ECHO).

To read the article, Reducing risk of childhood obesity in the wake of covid-19

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Efforts to fight a global surge in acute food insecurity are being stymied in several countries by fighting and blockades that cut off life-saving aid to families on the brink of famine, warn the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) in a new report issued on 30/7/21. Bureaucratic obstacles as well as a lack of funding also hamper the two UN agencies' efforts to provide emergency food assistance and enable farmers to plant at scale and at the right time. This is of grave concern as conflict, the economic repercussions of COVID-19 and the climate crisis are expected to drive higher levels of acute food insecurity in 23 hunger hotspots over the next four months, according to the report, as acute food insecurity continues to increase in scale and severity.

Humanitarian access isn't some abstract concept - it means authorities approving paperwork in time so that food can be moved swiftly, it means checkpoints allow trucks to pass and reach their destination, it means humanitarian responders are not targeted, so they are able to carry out their life- and livelihood-saving work," noted Beasley.

  • Communities cut off from aid - The report highlights that conflict, climate extremes and economic shocks - often related to the economic fallout of COVID-19 - will likely remain primary drivers of acute food insecurity for the August-November 2021 period
  • Scale and severity of acute food insecurity deepens - Ethiopia and Madagascar are the world's newest "highest alert" hunger hotspots according to the report.

To read the article: Famine relief blocked by bullets, red tape and lack of funding, warn FAO and WFP as acute food insecurity reaches new highs

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The research commissioned by EIT Food, the world's largest food innovation ecosystem, supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), surveyed over 2,000 18-24 year olds from across the UK, France, Germany, Poland and Spain. The findings point to a generation that is very interested, knowledgeable and entrepreneurial when it comes to their eating habits, and especially how they link to their wellbeing and mental health.

  • Young people aged 18 – 24 turn to social media platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram, for advice on healthy eating to compensate for a lack of information from educators, industry and policy makers
  • Health-savvy young people want greater transparency from brands on how food is processed, as well as healthier options for ordering in from home delivery platforms, such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats
  • Gen Z want a narrative on healthy eating that prioritises their mental health instead of counting calories – with 82% of young women wanting advice on the link between food and mental health
  • EIT Food is launching a new initiative that will see 10 ‘FutureFoodMakers’ call for radical change in the food sector to promote access to healthy food.

To read the article Gen Z demand radical change from the food sector to tackle access to healthy and affordable food

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Diet is known to influence heart health. Experts recommend a diet low in sodium and saturated fat to reduce the risk of heart disease. A heart-healthy diet also includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Research shows that the Mediterranean diet—full of fruits, vegetables, fish, cereals, and legumes, with little meat and dairy—may reduce the risk of heart disease.

  • A team led by Dr. James M. Shikany of the University of Alabama at Birmingham examined whether dietary patterns are associated with the risk of sudden cardiac death
  • The researchers analyzed the diets of more than 21,000 participants using a food questionnaire at the start of the study
  • Participants were asked how often and in what quantities they ate 110 foods in the past year
  • Based on the questionnaire responses, researchers calculated a Mediterranean diet score.
  • They also identified five dietary patterns

To read the article Diet may affect risk of sudden cardiac death

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A project developing healthier foods based on the slower release of energy is set to expand its range of products. By using different types of starch, the project hopes to introduce consumer-focused starchy products that can contribute to consumer’s health and reduce the risk of developing diet-related disease.

Highly digestible food products, especially starchy foods, are of concern as they may be digested so rapidly that their metabolic effect is comparable to that of free sugars, resulting in blood glucose peaks and the rapid release of insulin, which is linked to increased risk of type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

To read the article, click here Slower energy release points the way to healthier foods

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Quick Takes

  • Ultra-processed foods have been known to be associated with risk of CVD, cancer, and the obesity epidemic.
  • The fast-food, beverage, and food industries have made progress in reducing the unhealthy ingredients but continue to advertise the unhealthy.
  • Increasing the national and local community investment in health literacy with an emphasis on nutrition could be very cost-effective from the public perspective but have a negative impact on the economy and compete with many other priorities.

To read the article Ultra-Processed Foods and Incident Cardiovascular Disease

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The search continues for the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19—and the pathway that it took to leap from animals to humans, wreaking havoc across the globe, infecting more than 129 million people, and killing more than 2.8 million.

Last week, the World Health Organisation released a report from a team of international researchers that travelled to China to investigate four possible scenarios in which the SARS-CoV-2 virus might have caused the initial outbreak. In the days since, however, world governments have expressed concern that the investigators lacked access to complete data, while scientists say that the report has shed little light on how the virus got jumpstarted.

That’s unsurprising given that it typically takes years to trace a virus back to its roots—if it’s possible at all, says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Centre for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Centre. But in this case, she says, “I think we do have enough evidence to say that some are more likely than others.”


To read the article click here We still don’t know the origins of the coronavirus. Here are 4 scenarios.

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