In this section, we feature scientific publications of new research from Europe and the rest of the world, that may be of interest to EUFIC readers. EUFIC was not involved in this research, unless stated otherwise.
Despite numerous policy interventions to promote fruit and vegetable consumption, daily intake of fruits and vegetables is still below recommended levels worldwide. In a recent review published in the peer-reviewed journal Appetite, researchers from the University of Sydney, Australia, present an overview of the major campaigns of the last two decades, that have aimed to promote a long-term and sustainable increase in fruit and vegetable intake. The impact of these initiatives was low to modest and the authors identify recommendations to help promote future approaches in achieving a more significant behavioural change in the broader population.
Research from the EU-funded FoodRisC project into the most effective methods to communicate food risks and safety, has revealed the value of complimenting the use of traditional communication channels with social media. This study, carried out by researchers from across Europe, assessed whether European consumers already familiar with social media use it to seek information on food-related risks. Results show that risk information can be provided on social media alongside other information resources, but that it should not be considered as a substitute.
The need for transatlantic collaboration for conducting cross-cultural studies on sustainable interventions and long-term outcomes was discussed in a symposium held in Gent, Belgium in May 2013, under the auspices of the EU–US Task Force on Biotechnology Research. The symposium focused on determinants of healthy food choices and nutrition-related purchasing behaviours. A call to action stressed the priorities for future research in a framework of collaboration between academia, government authorities and the food and beverage industry.
A Mediterranean-like diet is associated with lower weight in children, but has become less common in the region
A team of researchers from eight European countries have found that a diet that is very similar to the traditional Mediterranean diet is associated with lower body weight and fat percentage in children. They also found that this diet is not common among children in Mediterranean countries. The researchers were partners in the EU-funded IDEFICS study (2006-2012), one of the largest studies to investigate health effects of a changing diet, lifestyle, and social environment and develop intervention approaches for two to ten-year olds.
A broad range of foods in a child’s first year of life may help to prevent the development of allergic diseases. A team of European researchers studied feeding practices by parents in Austria, Finland, France, Germany and Switzerland to measure the diversity of children’s diets against diagnoses of asthma, food allergies and allergic rhinitis. This is the first study that shows an association between increased exposure to certain foods in the first year of life and protection against later development of allergies.
Physical activity facilitates good health, weight management and prevention of chronic diseases. It is recognised as beneficial to social, emotional and cognitive states. To support and inform European health promotion policy, a recent survey carried out for the European Commission examined participation in physical activity in the European Union. The survey highlights that the majority of Europeans do not engage enough in sport and health-enhancing physical activity. Women in general – and young women in particular – are far less active than their male counterparts. Also of concern is the extremely high level of inactivity above the age of 55.
Excessive meat consumption is considered to have a high impact on the environment but also poses a risk factor for human diseases such as cancer and type II diabetes. A study by researchers from the Institute of Environmental Studies in VU University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, investigated consumer habits related to meat consumption and their attitudes toward strategies for change. Results showed that these strategies should be applied carefully depending on the consumer segment, and that consumer preferences should be taken into account to better facilitate a gradual change in the amount and sources of protein consumed.
Research conducted by the University of Hertfordshire, UK, and commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), investigated what happens in household kitchens to assess food safety risks in domestic environments. The study revealed that food safety was not a priority for most households and in some cases ‘lay’ or ‘common sense’ knowledge took precedence over expert advice.
Researchers from the NU-AGE project have published a special issue in the journal Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, which summarises new methods to tackle a key factor of ageing in elderly people - inflammation. This process plays a key role in frailty and other disabilities that lead to further disease and eventual death. Research suggests this process can be halted and even reversed through changes in diet and lifestyle.
A research team from the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Birmingham, UK, found that moderate daily coffee drinking did not lead to dehydration in young adult men. No differences in the body fluid balance were found between coffee and water consumption. The researchers suggest that, while caffeine in large quantities can dehydrate, drinking coffee in moderation provides similar levels of hydration as water in regular coffee drinkers.