Savvas Xystouris's Posts (53)

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Public health experts and campaigners have accused the UK government of turning its back on child health after ministers announced that a ban on multibuy deals for junk food would be delayed by a year in response to the cost of living crisis.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that the planned ban on “buy one get one free” deals for food and drinks that are high in fat, salt, or sugar and restrictions on free refills for soft drinks would be delayed until October 2023 while officials assess the effect on household finances. A planned ban on television advertising of these products before 9 pm will also be paused for a year.

Experts and campaigners lamented the inaction, accusing the government of failing to honour its pledges to tackle childhood obesity, with some calling for a reversal of the decision.

To read the article, Government delay on junk food multibuy ban is “shocking,” say health experts

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With the need to develop healthier and more sustainable food products, the introduction of new foods could be key to the transformation of our food system. Although European diets vary from region to region and household to household, innovation is accelerating and new food ingredients are entering the European market. Whether they are entirely new food concepts, or foods influenced by cultures and diets from across the world, could novel foods help to create a future-fit food system in Europe?

What are novel foods?
Novel foods are classified as foods that were not widely consumed within the EU before 15 May 1997; they can be innovative, newly developed, or produced using new technologies and processes (1). In some circumstances, novel foods can be introduced to a region or market to ‘replace’ another food because they are considered healthier or more sustainable. Examples include new sources of vitamins, extracts from plants or existing foods, or agricultural products from other countries (1).

Europe saw an explosion of new food products entering the EU market during the 1990s, and this led to the introduction of the first novel food legislation in May 1997 which stated that novel foods must (1):

  • be safe for consumers, and not pose a risk to public health
  • be properly labelled, so as not to mislead consumers
  • not differ in a way that the consumption of the novel food would be nutritionally disadvantageous, if intended to replace another food.

To read the post, please visit: Ingredients of the future: 4 novel foods emerging in Europe

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This review argues that the healthfulness of foods is not solely based on its nutritional composition but also on food form and food structure. The food form is very closely linked to how much calories are consumed and how full you feel. For example, consuming whole oranges is more satiating than consuming orange juice. The food texture or food structure within a food category determine how fast you eat a food, therefore influencing your sense of satiety. That’s why consuming hard bread instead of soft bread will make you feel full quicker. Other relevant properties are for example the thickness of yoghurts or chewiness of snacks. The food matrix (i.e., the microstructure of a food) is highly important in the ultimate absorption of nutrients. For example, in nuts, legumes and cereals, the actual calories absorbed during digestion are much fewer than the calories calculated from their composition.

The RESTRUCTURE project will provide new information on how eating rate can be predicted from food texture and investigate how composite foods or meals should be designed to effectively reduce calorie intake.


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Is another food crisis unfolding?

The summer of 2007 is notoriously remembered for the turmoil in the subprime mortgage market in the United States that led to the collapse the following year of Lehman Brothers, one of the oldest houses in Wall Street, and ushered in the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. The financial crisis engulfed about a dozen advanced economies (AEs) and pulled down dozens of emerging markets and developing countries (EMDEs) as the global economy slipped into recession. While the press coverage focused on the unfolding financial meltdown of the wealthy economies, a very different type of crisis brewed in parallel, that would have a disproportionally greater impact on EMDEs than in AEs. This was the global food crisis of 2008, the less famous sibling of the financial crisis.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic and the resulting plethora of supply disruptions in early 2020, “global real or relative food prices” (i.e., food prices divided by the consumer price index, or CPI) have been climbing higher once again (Figure 1). This builds on a perilous base. Already in 2020, more than 800 million people were estimated to be suffering from hunger, one hundred million more than the previous year (UNICEF, 2021). The pandemic, a once in a century event, has now been followed by another rare calamity—the first war in Europe since 1945.

To read the post: Is another food crisis unfolding?

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The four betters and leaving no one behind

FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31 seeks to support the 2030 Agenda through the transformation to MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind. The four betters represent an organising principle for how FAO intends to contribute directly to SDG 1 (No poverty), SDG 2 (Zero hunger), and SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities) as well as to supporting achievement of the broader SDG agenda, which is crucial for attaining FAO’s overall vision.

The four betters reflect the interconnected economic, social and environmental dimensions of agri-food systems. They also encourage a strategic and systems-oriented approach within all FAO’s interventions.

FAO will also apply four cross-cutting/cross-sectional “accelerators”: (i) technology, (ii) innovation, (iii) data, and (iv) complements (governance, human capital, and institutions) in all its programmatic interventions to accelerate impact while minimizing trade-offs.

To read the article: FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31


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The future of nutrition advice

Most of us know we should eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. So why would the National Institutes of Health spend $150 million to answer questions such as "What and when should we eat?" and "How can we improve the use of food as medicine?" The answer may be precision nutrition, which aims to understand the health effects of the complex interplay among genetics, our microbiome (the bacteria living in our gut), our diet and level of physical activity, and other social and behavioral characteristics.

That means that everyone could have their own unique set of nutritional requirements.
How is that possible? I asked three experts who conduct precision nutrition research: Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology and chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Martha Field and Angela Poole, both assistant professors in the division of nutritional sciences at Cornell University's College of Human Ecology.

To read the article, The future of nutrition advice

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EFSA’s scientists have completed their comprehensive safety assessment of sugars in the diet and their potential links to health problems. The opinion’s rich findings will support national public health authorities in Europe update future advice for their consumers.

Prof. Dominique Turck is the Chair of EFSA’s panel of nutrition experts who carried out the assessment. He stated: “We concluded that intakes of added and free sugars should be as low as possible as part of a nutritionally adequate diet; this is in line with current recommendations. However, the scientific evidence did not allow us to set a tolerable upper intake level for dietary sugars, which was the original goal of this assessment.”

Our diet includes different categories and sources of sugars, which can be naturally occurring or added. ‘Added sugars’ are refined sugars used in food preparation and as table sugar. ‘Free sugars’ includes ‘added sugars’ plus those naturally present in honey and syrups, as well as in fruit and vegetable juices and juice concentrates. ‘Total sugars’ are all sugars present in the diet, including those naturally present in fruit, vegetables, and milk.

Feedback helped finalise the opinion

Valuable input received during last year’s public consultation on a draft version of the opinion allowed our scientists to refine and clarify important aspects of their work.

Prof. Turck said: “We underlined there are uncertainties about chronic disease risk for people whose consumption of added and free sugars is below 10% of their total energy intake. This is due to the scarcity of studies at doses in this range.

“Data limitations also meant it was not possible to compare the effects of sugars classified as added or free, overall.”

To read the blog, visit EFSA's website: Added and free sugars should be as low as possible

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Food is often scarce in countries afflicted by fragility, conflict and violence. But solutions require more than putting food on the table today. To truly help those caught in often terrifying situations, it’s important to look at how they will be able to eat and provide food for their familiie tomorrow and beyond – and that requires focusing on agriculture. Holger Kray, World Bank Program Manager for Agriculture and Food in Eastern and Southern Africa, explains the role of agriculture in these difficult settings.

Q. From your experience, what is the relationship between conflict and hunger?
A. There's a commonality between all the fragile and conflict affected states. Their per capita income is usually persistently low, so people cannot afford to buy high quality foods and a diversified diet. And those who produce food cannot afford to buy the most critical inputs, such as seeds, fertilizers and good animal feed. Because of that, extreme poverty is increasing. This is almost like a vicious cycle.

There are also disruptions to food systems. For instance, products are being produced but they don't reach the consumer due to shortages in energy or logistics.

In addition, in fragile and conflict-affected countries, the public sector may not be as efficient in rolling out policies and making decisions about the stewardship of natural resources.

Q. What are the impacts of climate change in these situations?
A. Climate change is the greatest threat to food security that we've seen. And it's probably one of the greatest challenges that the World Bank is facing in its assistance to countries.  

Twenty years ago, a food security crisis resulting from severe weather in Africa would occur about once every 12 years. It now occurs every two and a half years. It’s much too frequent for any country, region or farm to recover from the impact of these shocks.

In countries such as Malawi or Madagascar, you now see it every two to three years. These are countries that only have one rainy season per year. They can only produce maize once a year. If that rain season fails to come, there's no food production. If a rainstorm comes right when the corn starts to grow, it washes away the crops, then the crops are gone for the year.

Q. How has COVID-19 impacted these situations?
A. Because of COVID-19 lockdown measures, per capita income GDP declined even further. Poverty rates in fragile countries have increased, and food insecurity worsened. Food price inflation these days is much higher in fragile and conflict affected countries. Food price inflation this year in Africa is about 12% on average, year over year. It's 30-40% in conflict affected countries.

Q. But it's not only about COVID. No, or even getting emergency aid to people.  Agriculture itself is key. So how does it work in such dangerous situations?
A. Agriculture provides food, jobs and income. Agriculture also creates inclusion. It is usually the sector in which women not only find dignity, but really have a voice in which they take important decisions. It is often underestimated how important the agriculture and food sector is for inclusion of the marginalized populations.

Agriculture is also about landscape and resilience. If you have nude landscapes without any vegetation or that are no longer cultivated, these landscapes are quite often much more prone to catastrophic weather events. The presence of trees, grass and pasture hold the soil much better, add to water retention capacity and bind carbon in the soil.

Summing up, agriculture plays a very central role. It’s not the solution to every challenge that countries face in fragile and conflict-affected situations, but it is much more than just a sector that only produces food.

Q. So how does the World Bank work to promote agriculture in these situations?
A. The World Bank's main mission is to focus on long-term development, helping countries to build systems, infrastructure, and capacity to avoid fragile and conflict situations or to recover after such catastrophic impacts. We are not a rapid response agency, but we do have rapid response activities, such as food aid or feed aid.

Livelihood kits is one example. After crops have been washed away, we quickly help supply farmers with seed and fertilizer to produce food for the next season. This is what we typically do when we work with governments after natural disasters.

Something relatively new in our “response portfolio” is the Early Response Financing which we can deploy at the early onset of a potential food crisis, to avoid catastrophic impacts on the population later on.

South Sudan is a concrete example. It’s continues to be affected by hunger, extreme climate shocks such as flooding, and conflict. We've recently deployed two projects that are being implemented in parallel. One is an emergency locust response project where we areworking with communities through the government to improve local surveillance and locust control, help restore livelihoods, and help the country to build systems so that in the future it is better prepared for locust outbreaks. All these actions arepart of an emergency response. 

In parallel, we have deployed a resilient agricultural livelihoods project. This project helps South Sudan to develop better agriculture productivity in parts of the country are fertile  and not affected by conflict so that that the nation can build a strong foundation to feed itself in future.

Q. Have you seen agriculture projects that have made a difference and supported a return to normalcy in fragile and conflict settings?
A. Agriculture is a part of a response strategy. It might be one of the most important one, but it is not the only ones. It's always a combination of a range of efforts which include agriculture and food, but also focus on job creation, livelihood restoration, trade, economic growth, macroeconomic stability -- all the things that need to be present for development to take place.

An example is northern Uganda at the border of South Sudan. Two decades ago, violence in the region dominated international news. If you go to northern Uganda now, what you’d see unfolding is an agricultural revolution. There is a really vibrant private sector that works with farmers and provides technical assistance, telling farmers how to better use inputs, how to better grow, collect and market crops.To a certain degree, northern Uganda has become a critical supplier for food security efforts managed by the World Food Program in neighboring South Sudan.

Q. With all of this, what role does the private sector play?
A. Agriculture is inherently a private sector activity because all the farmers, whether male or female, small or large, are entrepreneurs. The state's only role in guiding agriculture is to devise a policy framework that delivers incentives and a regulatory environment for farmers as private actors to develop and produce and prosper.

Private corporations, traders and downstream businesses have a critical role to play. They are the ones who supply seeds, fertilizers, insurance, banking, machinery, maintenance services among other things. In fragile and conflict settings, the private sector often functions in the gray economy, the undocumented economy, but it's very active.

The private sector also has a role in mobilizing financing for development by investing in these countries. International and bilateral organizations, as well as foundations, cannot meet the agriculture development needs of entire continents on their own.

This is why the World Bank Group does not only focus on the public sector side. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) specializes in private sector development, helping enterprises to grow and make a greater contribution to development.

Meanwhile, our Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) helps cross-border investors and lenders to deal with non-commercial and political risks, breach of contract, and currency inconvertibility. If you were an international investor thinking about investing in a fragile country, MIGA could insure part of your risk. This type of insurance is an important ingredient to attract international private sector funds.


The article was sourced from this website Knowledge Centre for Global Food and Nutrition Security

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The Evolution of Diet

As we look to 2050, when we’ll need to feed two billion more people, the question of which diet is best has taken on new urgency. The foods we choose to eat in the coming decades will have dramatic ramifications for the planet. Simply put, a diet that revolves around meat and dairy, a way of eating that’s on the rise throughout the developing world, will take a greater toll on the world’s resources than one that revolves around unrefined grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

Until agriculture was developed around 10,000 years ago, all humans got their food by hunting, gathering, and fishing. As farming emerged, nomadic hunter-gatherers gradually were pushed off prime farmland, and eventually they became limited to the forests of the Amazon, the arid grasslands of Africa, the remote islands of Southeast Asia, and the tundra of the Arctic. Today only a few scattered tribes of hunter-gatherers remain on the planet.

That’s why scientists are intensifying efforts to learn what they can about an ancient diet and way of life before they disappear. “Hunter-gatherers are not living fossils,” says Alyssa Crittenden, a nutritional anthropologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who studies the diet of Tanzania’s Hadza people, some of the last true hunter-gatherers. “That being said, we have a small handful of foraging populations that remain on the planet. We are running out of time. If we want to glean any information on what a nomadic, foraging lifestyle looks like, we need to capture their diet now.”

To go to National Geographic's page: The Evolution of Diet

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The cultivation of pulses, combined with the power of young people, can help achieve a transformation in our agrifood systems, said QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), at a virtual event held to mark World Pulses Day.

“Our agrifood systems need a paradigm shift,” said Qu, stating that “a focus on pulses can help us achieve this transformation, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

World Pulses Day seeks to raise awareness of the role of pulses in addressing food security challenges and their contribution to achieving a healthy and balanced diet. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Pulses to empower youth in achieving sustainable agrifood systems”. Currently, there are 1.8 billion young people in the world between the ages of 10 and 24 who have the creativity and energy for renewing perspectives and opportunities and, as Qu affirmed, it’s a potential we must tap into.

“Pulses contribute to creating livelihood opportunities and equity, which are essential for sustainable agrifood systems. FAO strongly supports the youth to become drivers of positive change,” Qu said.

To read the article: World Pulses Day leverages the power of youth to transform agrifood systems

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The past two years have put our healthcare systems in Europe to the test, as the COVID-19 pandemic brought an added setback on top of the public health challenges that countries were already facing.

Each wave of COVID has brought new challenges to systems struggling with stretched services. System pressures have distracted Member States from their core health priorities, including diagnosis and management of chronic disease. Europe’s #1 cause of death is cardiovascular disease (CVD), and attention has been diverted through the COVID crisis. This is despite the fact that CVD is a clear predictor of poorer outcomes for people impacted by COVID, but also that COVID has significant cardiovascular impacts.

Despite ranking as Europe’s #1 killer, efforts to prevent and treat CVD lag behind other diseases. CVD-focused public health information and actions to raise awareness are lower than for other conditions. Despite the high impact of CVD, there is low public awareness of its risks. This is in stark contrast to cancer – Europe’s #2 cause of death. Here, stakeholders have access to a wealth of information on cancer diagnosis, prevention, and cure. Today most EU countries have cancer initiatives, including screening programs in breast, cervical and colorectal cancer. Very few have national cardiovascular strategies.

To read the article:

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Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are a major source of added sugars in the diet. A robust body of evidence has linked habitual intake of SSBs with weight gain and a higher risk (compared with infrequent SSB consumption) of type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers, which makes these beverages a clear target for policy and regulatory actions.

This Review provides an update on the evidence linking SSBs to obesity, cardiometabolic outcomes and related cancers, as well as methods to grade the strength of nutritional research.

To read the review, please follow this link: The role of sugar-sweetened beverages in the global epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases

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Stance4Health - Smart Technologies for personAlised Nutrition and Consumer Engagement is a project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 816303.
The overall objective of Stance4Health is to develop a complete Smart Personalized Nutrition (SPN) service based on the use of mobile technologies as well as tailored food production that will optimize the gut microbiota activity and long-term consumer engagement.

The Stance4Health app is intended to offer consumers as wide a variation of recipes as possible. To this end, a total of almost 100,000 national and international recipes were collected and processed by the members of WP2. These recipes have been supplemented over the past six months with additional recipes for children. This addition also allows the intervention study of children in Greece to be provided with meal suggestions.

To read the newsletter: Smart Technologies for personAlised Nutrition and Consumer Engagement


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For schoolchildren and adolescents, healthy diets are essential to grow, develop and be protected from disease.

But worldwide, 149 million children under the age of five are too small for their age. 40 million are overweight. Many millions are suffering from deficiencies of key nutrients. Many of these children are carrying over their nutritional problems into school age which affects their capacity to learn and overall development. Addressing malnutrition is central to improving individual development and well-being, advancing the overall economic and social development of families and communities and ensuring the Right to Food for vulnerable people.

Likewise, the current environmental and socioeconomic issues around the world are threatening the very existence of future generations and can’t be ignored or separated from the efforts to address malnutrition.Let’s look at the pathways towards improving nutrition and promoting more sustainable food practices for schoolchildren and adolescents and see what FAO and partners are doing to support these pathways around the world.

To visit the page, click: FAO Class in session- Healthy and sustainable food pathways for schoolchildren

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In the era of COVID-19, essential workers are plagued with unforeseen and obfuscated challenges. Flight attendants are a unique subgroup of essential workers who face a multitude of health risks attributed to occupational exposures that are accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such risks can be ameliorated with strategies that target factors which enhance COVID-19 risk, including modifiable factors of diet and lifestyle. The aim of this cross-sectional study is to detect occupational dietary and lifestyle factors which could increase COVID-19 incidence amongst flight attendants. To identify potential risk factors, a questionnaire was administered to eighty-four flight attendants and examined the participants’ diet and lifestyle, and COVID-19 incidence.

This study suggests that there are modifiable dietary and lifestyle factors that can be addressed within or around flight attendants’ work environment to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and other illnesses. The significant findings between perceived influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on the quality of dietary consumption, perceived diet quality, and COVID-incidence suggests that the flight attendant workspace may be a key area for improvement among airlines to modify potential risks for COVID-19 that are rooted in sleep pattern disturbances, and/or are dietary in etiology.

To read the Nature Scientific reports article: Flight attendant occupational nutrition and lifestyle factors associated with COVID-19 incidence

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The highest daily intake of five portions of fruit and vegetables among EU member states was recorded in Ireland, with 33% of the population over the age of 15 consuming their five-a-day. The Eurostat study found that as of 2019, 33% of people in the EU did not consume any fruit or vegetables daily, while only 12% of the population consumed the recommended 5 portions or more daily. On average, over half of the EU population (55%) said they ate between 1 and 4 portions of fruit and vegetables daily.

Following behind Ireland at the top of the table is the Netherlands (30%), Denmark (23%) and France (20%). The lowest daily intake was found in Romania, where only 2% of the population ate at least five portions of fruit and vegetables, followed by Bulgaria and Slovenia (both 5%) and Austria (6%).The study also found that women’s daily intake of fruit and veg is higher than that of men. The study notes that on average, 58% reported eating 1 to 4 portions compared to 51% for men.

To read the Eurostat's post go to Eurostat's website:  How much fruit and vegetables do you eat daily?.

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A clutch of fishing villages dot the coast near Kilifi, north of Mombasa in Kenya. The waters are home to parrot fish, octopus and other edible species. But despite living on the shores, the children in the villages rarely eat seafood. Their staple meal is ugali, maize (corn) flour mixed with water, and most of their nutrition comes from plants. Almost half the kids here have stunted growth — twice the national rate.

In 2020, Lora Iannotti, a public-health researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, and her Kenyan colleagues asked people in the villages why the children weren’t eating seafood, even though all the parents fish for a living; studies show that fish and other animal-source foods can improve growth1. The parents said it made more financial sense for them to sell their catch than to eat it.

The aim of the experiment, says Iannotti, is to understand “which sea foods can we choose that are healthy for the ecosystem as well as healthy in the diet”. The proposed diet should also be culturally acceptable and affordable, she says.

To read the article: What humanity should eat to stay healthy and save the planet

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Nutritionists and other experts can help EFSA finalise scientific advice that will support decision-makers develop a future EU-wide system for front-of-pack nutrition labelling. The advice will also inform conditions for restricting nutrition and health claims on foods.

As part of the Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Commission asked EFSA in early 2021 to provide scientific advice on the nutrients and non-nutrient food components of public health importance for Europeans, food groups with important roles in European diets, and scientific criteria to guide the choice of nutrients for nutrient profiling. The Commission intends to propose new legislation at the end of 2022.

The public consultation runs until 9 January, after which EFSA will finalise its scientific opinion in early 2022. To see the draft opinion and take part in the public consultation, click:

To read the post on EFSA's website, go to The science behind nutrient profiling – have your say

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Unwrapping Health Claims this festive season

Christmas is notoriously a season of indulgence and excess – but not every festive food is devoid of beneficial nutrients. Not only are several traditional festive foods delicious, but they can also be highly nutritious. In fact, a few Christmas foods even qualify for certain EU health claims – for example, oranges are high in vitamin C, which contributes to normal psychological function. Health claims suggest or imply that a relationship exists between a food category, a food (or one of its constituents) and health. The use of such statements in relation to foods and drinks sold within the EU is regulated.

In order to address the fact that consumers may have either low understanding and/or low trust in health claims on food packs, the EIT Food-funded Health Claims Unpacked project has relaunched their digital platform in 2020 to collect data on consumer preferences around the wording and presentation of health claims on food labels. This information will be used to create a business hub, which will provide food manufacturers with insights into ways of communicating health claims that are likely to resonate best with everyday consumers.

To read this article (December 2020) click here:Unwrapping Health Claims this festive season

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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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