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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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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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This systematic review was conducted by the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to evaluate the strengths of evidence on diet and health, and inform the dietary guidelines for Americans on possible associations with all-cause mortality

Quick takes:

  • Current focus shifted from interest in single nutrient consumption to dietary patterns for overall health
  • Dietary patterns reflect quantities, proportions, variety and combinations of foods as well as the frequency of habitual consumption
  • Nutrient dense dietary patterns, high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, unsaturated vegetable oils, lean meat, poultry and fish was associated with low cause mortality in adults and older adults
  • Dietary patterns low in high-fat dairy, red and processed meat, refined carbs and sweets and moderate in alcohol consumption were considered healthy
  • Following a healthy dietary pattern at any life stage supports health in subsequent stages

 To read the article:

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2783625

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Child obesity is a global public health priority.  This study suggests a low-intensive multicomponent child centred intervention for the prevention of obesity in children aged 2 -4 years to be cost effective

Quick takes:

  • Child obesity has both mental and physical consequences and affects children’s wellbeing both in the short and long term
  • Child obesity most frequently extends to adulthood and is associated with various comorbidities; therefore, prevention is deemed vital
  • There’s a need from caregivers to receive structures and easy to understand information from health care professionals to be able to support children
  • The efficacy of prevention efforts offered by Child Health Services against child obesity is of concern
  • Continuous training to healthcare professionals in the application of structured person-centred and family counselling management plan to prevent and support overweight children and their families is still lacking
  • A low-intensive multicomponent prevention program implemented in Sweden is suggested to be cost effective with the potential to decrease zBMI in overweight children, however with no statistical significance
  • Methods to communicate and engage with children and their families in weight related topics is an area requiring future research

 To read the article:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/osp4.547

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Dietary phytochemicals have been shown to have a protective effect against chronic diseases, however the association with the metabolic syndrome (MetS) has not yet been investigated.

This recent study investigates the Dietary Phytochemical Index (DPI), based on daily dietary energy (kcal) derived from phytochemical rich foods, in association with the odds ratio of MetS and its components.

 Quick takes:

  • The prevalence of MetS is affected by various factors including race, age, gender, lifestyle, diet, genetics, and history of diabetes, hypertension and CVD
  • Previous studies focused on nutrients, foods, and food groups; however, new approaches in nutritional studies take dietary patterns into consideration
  • Phytochemicals are natural bioactive compounds that have been shown to have health boosting effects due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and their protective effects against the development of insulin resistance, abnormal glucose and lipid levels, and abdominal obesity
  • Results from this study show a lower risk of MetS associated with higher DPI scores in a large sample of Iranian women
  • High DPI scores were also associated with lower odds ratio of individual components of MetS
  • Consumption of foods high in DPI could reduce the odds of MetS and its components, especially in women

To read the full article:

https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-021-11590-2

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Nutritional intake and bone health

Food intake, nutrient sufficiency and dietary patterns play a major role in maintaining bone health.  While the avoidance of a specific food group is likely to have harmful effects, the diversity of food intake is emphasized for bone health and mineral homeostasis

Quick takes:

  • Bone fractures are quite common amongst those older than 50 years of age, affecting 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men
  • Fractures lead to increased risk of morbidity and mortality, in addition to an impaired quality of life
  • 60-80% of variations in peak bone mass are due to genetic factors while the rest is related to environmental factors and dietary patterns
  • Recommendations for a decreased risk of fragility fracture include an optimal intake of protein and calcium and sufficient vitamin D, coupled with weight bearing physical exercise
  • Observational studies show that a high consumption of dairy, and fermented products in specific, is associated with lower fracture risk
  • Diversity in nutrient intake and following a dietary pattern like that of the Mediterranean diet is associated with lower fracture risk, which could be attributed to a diversified gut microbiota composition and enhanced function

 To read the article:

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(21)00119-4/fulltext

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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

Timeline

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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A randomised controlled trial was conducted for 3 months on Indian adolescents and young adults to test the effect of almond consumption on metabolic risk factors

Quick takes:

  • India is currently ranked in 4th place world-wide in terms of impaired glucose tolerance in adults
  • The Indian population has higher total body and visceral fat at similar BMIs, in comparison to the Caucasian populations, that which could lead to the early onset of metabolic syndrome and diabetes
  • The prevalence of impaired glucose is found to be higher in adolescents with abdominal adiposity
  • Daily consumption of 56g of almonds lead to a significant decrease in GbA1C, total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol, and the potential to reduce insulin resistance at the pre-diabetes stage
  • The consumption of almonds could be considered as a preventative strategy against diabetes
  • The introduction of healthy snacks could favourably affect glycaemic and lipid markers and decrease the risk of NCDs in the young Indian population

 To read the article: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2021.668622/full

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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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Adolescence overweight and obesity (AOO) remains to be a global health concern associated with a higher risk of non-communicable diseases.  The challenging double burden of nutrition reflects the coexistence of obesity and malnutrition in many countries, including those in east and south Asia.  This study investigates the determinants and prevalence of adolescent obesity in Indonesia, aiming to offer solutions with global implications.

 Quick takes:

  • According to the Indonesian National Health Survey (INHS), the prevalence of AOO has been on the rise for the past 5 years
  • Potential risk factors included being male, sedentary, lower education, married, having depression symptoms, and the consumption of high fat diet. Further contributing factors included higher socioeconomic status and living in urban locations
  • An association between depression in adolescents and obesity was observed, especially in females
  • Higher consumption of fruit and vegetables or fewer consumption of sweets did not appear to have a protective effect against AOO
  • Preventative and health support programs for young children and adolescents remain to be lacking, reflecting a need for closer attention
  • Population-based interventions, including environmental and lifestyle changes, are urgently needed to combat obesity on a national level
  • Personalised interventions and lifestyle changes are of critical importance to mitigate for potential contributors to AOO

To read the article: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0379572121992750

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