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.
A cutting-edge research project comprising research institutes and communication experts across Europe has set out to study the role of health-related claims and symbols in consumer behaviour.
On 21 January 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released its scientific opinion on the risks to public health related to the presence of bisphenol A (BPA) in foodstuffs. The conclusion was that BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group at current exposure levels.
Two international groups of researchers have independently studied the effects of omega-6 fatty acids on the risks of death and coronary heart disease, respectively. For both studies it was concluded that the risks were lowered with high intake of linoleic acid, the main omega-6 fatty acid, widely present in vegetable oils.
In an extensive scientific review published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, researchers from the EU-funded NeuroFAST project conclude that ‘food addiction’ is a misnomer because of the ambiguous connotation of a substance-related phenomenon. They propose the term ‘eating addiction’ to underscore the behavioural addiction to eating. The researchers stated that, similar to other addictive behaviours, eating can become an addiction for susceptible individuals, in situations where palatable energy-dense foods are readily available. This research could lead to better-focused treatment and prevention strategies for public health.
A recent study published in the European Journal of Public Health has identified uncertainty surrounding sweeteners among dietitians, which is reflected by the diversity of positions taken by the media, public health information and non-governmental organisations. Researchers from the University of Bath and Plymouth University, based in the UK, and the European Food Information Council, in Belgium, examined dietitians’ perceptions of sweeteners and the practical advice they provide about them.
How different reference amounts on nutrition labels influence consumers’ product healthfulness evaluation was investigated by researchers from the University of Surrey and the team at the European Food Information Council. The study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows that products with a ‘per 100g’ label were rated as less healthful compared to products with reference amounts given in ‘typical’ or ‘half typical’ portions.
Researchers from the University of Reading in the UK have found that the addition of herbs and spices can increase consumers’ liking of reduced-salt soups. They found that reducing salt led to a significant decline in liking for the soup, which initially was unaffected by the addition of herbs and spices. However, consumer acceptance for the herbs and spices soup increased after regular exposure over five days. Consumers also perceived that this soup contained a similar level of salt as the standard soup. While salt is an important component of many foods, a high sodium diet can increase the chances of hypertension, and therefore, the risk of cardiovascular disease. Salt in foods is used for taste, texture and preservation, so reducing salt in food products can be a considerable challenge for food manufacturers.
Schools are regarded as a promising intervention target to counteract the increase of childhood obesity levels. In this context, the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) published a report this summer on the assessment of nutrition-related content of national school food policies in the 28 EU Member States, as well as Norway and Switzerland. The main finding was that all of these countries have a school food policy of some sort in place, either mandatory or voluntary. The report aims to inform public health policy makers, educators and researchers about the current European landscape of school food policies, highlighting various options intended to promote healthier school food environments.
Researchers from the EU-funded Food4Me project have validated the use of their online Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), a method for assessing dietary intake that requires respondents to select the frequency of food and drink products consumed over a period of time. Results of two repetitions of this web-based questionnaire were measured against findings from a four-day weighed food record (WFR), often considered the most accurate measure of food consumption in dietary intake assessments. Results show that the Food4Me FFQ is a reliable and accurate tool for nutritionists, dietitians and nutrition researchers, as well as being easy to use by participants.
The Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission's in-house science service, has published a science and policy report highlighting the importance of diet and nutrition in increasing healthy life years, and promoting Active and Healthy Ageing (AHA). The report describes the main factors of AHA, focusses on under-nutrition in the elderly as both a cause and consequence of functional decline, and highlights the main research gaps.
The European population is ageing – the proportion of people older than 65 is projected to increase from 17.4% to nearly 30% by 2060. The number of people 80 years and over will triple during the same period. Supporting AHA is critical to improving the quality of life in the elderly, ensuring that individuals continue to contribute to society later in life. In this context, ‘healthy’ refers to physical, mental and social well-being and ‘active’ is the continuation of participation in civic, cultural, economic, physically active, social and spiritual affairs.