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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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9850152458?profile=originalThe anticipated failure of many countries to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 necessitates the assessment of science–policy engagement mechanisms for food systems transformation. 

 

A High Level Expert Group (EG) of the European Commission explore options for enhancing existing partnerships, mandates and resources — or reimagining a new mission — for science–policy interfaces in this paper.

The science policy interfaces (SPI) options presented in this paper provide a potential framework to promote consensus around ways to achieve independent scientific interaction with policy needs at different scales. Establishing more effective food systems SPIs will require financial and political capital and time-defined dialogues that go beyond cooperation among existing SPIs to include other actors (including national and regional governments, the private sector and NGOs). These dialogues should be shaped by openness, inclusivity, transparency, scientific independence and institutional legitimacy.

The UN Food Systems Summit held in September 2021 provided some space for this discussion, which should be furthered during the UN Climate Change Conference in the UK (COP26) and Nutrition for Growth in Tokyo. The global community must seize on this historic moment to formulate commitments that enhance SPIs and that concretely help them to support the urgently needed transformation of our food systems.

Read full paper.

 

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EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste

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The most recent estimates of European food waste levels (FUSIONS, 2016) reveal that 70% of EU food waste arises in the household, food service and retail sectors, with production and processing sectors contributing the remaining 30%.

Tackling food waste means working together with all key players from public and private sectors in order to better identify, measure, understand and find solutions to deal with food waste. There is not one single cause with one solution because the food chain is a complex and dynamic system. All actors in the food chain need to work together to find solutions, from farmers, processors, manufacturers and retailers through to consumers themselves. Policy makers, research scientists, food banks and other NGOs also play an important role.

In order to support achievement of the  Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)12.3 target on food waste and maximise the contribution of all actors, the Communication on Circular Economy (2015)Search for available translations of the preceding linkEN••• called on the Commission to establish a Platform dedicated to food waste prevention. Thus the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste (FLW) was established in 2016, bringing together EU institutions, experts from the EU countries and relevant stakeholders selected through an open call for applications. The Platform aims to support all actors in: defining measures needed to prevent food waste; sharing best practice; and evaluating progress made over time.

The EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste will continue to play a key role in mobilising action to reduce food loss and waste across the EU as part of the Farm to Fork StrategySearch for available translations of the preceding linkEN•••. In order to re-establish the Platform and ensure continuity of work as of 2022, the Commission launched a new public call for applications for private sector organisations and invited public entities to join its work for another 5-year term (2022-2026).  Interested organisations were invited to apply until 23 July 2021.

In addition to plenary meetings, the Platform also operates in sub-groups to examine specific aspects and/or questions related to food waste prevention. Four such subgroups have been established to date:

For further information visit the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste.

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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].

Results
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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STANCE4HEALTH

"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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9734820469?profile=RESIZE_710xMEPs present plans revamping the EU’s food systems, to produce healthier food, ensure food security, a fair income for farmers and reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint.

Parliament welcomes the Farm to Fork strategy and underlines the importance of producing sustainable and healthy food to achieve the goals of the European Green Deal, including on climate, biodiversity, zero pollution and public health.

MEPs highlighted the need for enhanced sustainability at every step of the food supply chain and reiterated that everyone - from farmer to consumer - has a role to play in this. To ensure that farmers can earn a fair share of the profit made from sustainably produced food, MEPs want the Commission to reinforce efforts - including through the adaptation of competition rules - to strengthen the position of farmers in the supply chain.

Read full article here.

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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 Periodic Table of Food Initiative

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Food is at the center of the world’s most urgent challenges and largest opportunities.

According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition is the leading cause of death and disease globally. In fact, there is a “triple burden” of malnutrition at all levels of the population:

  • Undernutrition: The lack of food and/or access to it. 
  • Overnutrition: The consumption of too many calories.  
  • Poor nutrition: Not the right nutritional content (vitamin and mineral deficiencies).

Given advances in the quality and cost of mass spectrometry, bioinformatics, machine learning and big data, along with the growing recognition of the important health impacts of food, the time is ripe for the PTFI.  

The PTFI will strengthen and support ongoing work by developing lowcost mass spectrometry kits, standards, methods, cloud-based analytical tools, and a public database that will include a quantitative and qualitative analysis of 1,000 foods that are representative of geographic and cultural diversity worldwide.

The PTFI will establish a Working Group, composed of experts around the globe, who will inform the selection of the first 2,000 foods based on specific criteria. The overarching goal of this selection process is to ensure inclusivity. The following dimensions we are considering arise out of provocations that help define the plenum of global food options: 

  • Biology: Where in the phylogenetic tree did the organisms that become food originate? 
  • Tissue: What part of organisms are used for food? Entire organisms or portions of plants, animals, or microbes? 
  • Geography: Where do foods originate and where do they thrive? 
  • Consumers: Who are specific foods targeted to? 
  • Processing: Broadly speaking, how are foods treated after “harvest”? 
  • Domestication: How has human intervention modified organisms from their native (wild) state? 
  • Derivation and Formulation: Is the organism (plant, animal, microbe) consumed as a food as is, or is it a derived ingredient in a formulated product or recipe? 
  • Proportional Abundance: From rice to spice – which foods are the center of a meal and the core of a cuisine, and which are tiny fractions of the diet, but can be just as frequently consumed? 
  • Affordability: Which foods are luxury and which are staples? 
  • Frequency: Which foods are consumed on a regular basis and which are associated with rare festive events, life transitions, spiritual celebrations? 
  • Complementarity: Which foods are historically consumed as ensembles? 

Once the database is in place, the scientific community and private sector can build on this public resource by adding analysis of additional foods, varieties, and cooking methods. The PTFI technical platform will enable conditions for a rapid acceleration in research and innovation in both the public and private sectors.

Visit the website for further information.

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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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Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating the calcium and phosphate levels in the human body, in addition to its role in preventing diseases, with insufficient concentrations reported as mortality risk factors.  Ethnicities with darker skin colour are reported as being at higher risk of deficiency due to a multi-gene regulatory function of the Vitamin D receptors.  This recent systematic review investigates the effect of different types of vitamin D supplementation in Black and Asian ethnicities on changes in 25(OH)D levels.

 Quick takes:

  • Oral supplementation of vitamin D increased 25(OH)D, regardless of the supplement source (vitamin D2or D3), the administered dosage, mode of delivery or duration
  • In comparison to food fortification, which reflected smaller increases, oral supplementation increased 25(OH)D to considerably adequate levels
  • Supplementation with vitamin D3 showed significantly higher increases in 25(OH)D than increases yielded from supplementation of vitamin D2. A possible explanation could be the increased ability of vitamin D3 to bind to the vitamin D receptors after the formation of 1,24,25 (OH)3 in the kidneys
  • This systematic review reflected findings from recent literature suggesting daily intake of 7000 – 10000 IU supplementation of vitamin D3 to have potential protective capacity against adverse COVID-19 outcomes
  • Supplementation of vitamin D3 in Black and Asian ethnicities could be a beneficial intervention to reduce infection mortalities

 To read the article:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jhn.12949?campaign=wolearlyview

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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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In some studies, physiological distresses have been proposed as risk factors for diabetes, due to their effect on increasing the level of cortisol secretion, that which in turn leads to insulin resistance, dyslipidaemia, obesity and type 2 diabetes.  Other studies found an association between psychological distress and quality of sleep with pre-diabetes and diabetes.

This study investigates the effect of vitamin D and omega-3 supplementation on psychological distresses in women of reproductive age with pre-diabetes and hypovitaminosis, using the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21 and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index.

Quick takes:

  • Supplementation of vitamin D alone showed significant improvement in Vitamin D levels, sleep quality, anxiety and depression symptoms
  • Supplementation of Omega-3 alone showed no significant difference on the quality of sleep, stress or depression, despite a significant difference in terms of the anxiety score
  • The co-supplementation of vitamin D and Omega-3 showed great positive effects on the quality of sleep, and the reduction of depression and anxiety levels
  • A combination of vitamin D and Omega-3 supplementation could be used as a preventative method for improving the mental health women of reproductive age with pre-diabetes and hypovitaminosis

 To read the article:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/brb3.2342

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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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Diet and dietary patterns have been shown, in various studies, to influence cardiometabolic health.  This study investigates the association between the consumption of a Mediterranean diet in childhood and cardiometabolic disease risk in young adults

Quick takes:

  • Various studies show diet as a modifiable risk factor that can influence cardiometabolic diseases
  • This study used the children’s relative Mediterranean-style diet score (C-rMED) to calculate diet and dietary patterns for UK children at ages 7, 10, and 13 years; and anthropometric and biochemical data to calculate the Cardiometabolic risk (CMR) scores at the age of 17 and 24 years old in children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)
  • A high C-rMED score at the age of 13 years old was associated with a 32% decrease in CMR at the age of 24 years old, with no associations evident at other ages. Two high scores of C-rMED during the age bracket of 7 – 13 years old showed the highest decreased odds of having a high CMR score at the age of 24 years old
  • The impact of the Mediterranean diet in reducing adiposity and improving glucose metabolism appear to be the main factors driving the association, as reflected by homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and fat mass index (FMI)
  • Findings highlight the importance of establishing healthy eating habits during childhood and early adolescents to support cardiometabolic health in later life stages
  • The potential application of a Mediterranean diet and dietary patterns in early life could be considered as a preventative strategy for cardiometabolic diseases in later life stages

 To read the article:

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00394-021-02652-7

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The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has released a new IARC Evidence Summary Brief, titled “The Nutri-Score: A Science-Based Front-of-Pack Nutrition Label”. This report, led by scientists from IARC and partners, shows that the Nutri-Score, a clear and simple front-of-pack nutrition label that rates the nutritional quality of food products, is an effective tool to guide consumers towards healthier food choices.

Based on scientific evidence, the IARC Evidence Summary Brief stresses the superiority of the Nutri-Score to other nutrition labels, and calls for its widespread and systematic adoption in Europe and beyond, to help consumers lower their risk of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer.

Read IARC Press Release 301

Read the Evidence Summary Brief about the Nutri-Score 

Read more about the IARC Evidence Summary Briefs series 

 

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The quality and quantity of food consumed contribute to the high rates of overweight and obesity.  This study investigates the effect of reducing the proportion of higher energy (kcal) foods, in worksite cafeterias in England, Scotland and Wales, to explore the effectiveness of targeting the food environment as a potential intervention to reduce energy intake 

Quick takes:

  • A decrease in the proportion of higher energy food availability in cafeterias lead to a reduction in total energy consumed from purchased foods
  • A decrease in portion sizes on offer lead to a further reduction in total energy consumed from worksite cafeterias, in addition to that decrease from availability control
  • Creating healthier environments both in and out of home setting maybe effective as part of a broader strategy to reduce energy from food consumed out of the home. This can contribute to national and international efforts to tackle overweight and obesity
  • Making healthier changes to the food environment supports sustained behaviour change, a major obstacle to BMI reduction

To read the article:

https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003743

 

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