The main objectives of the Nutrition workgroup are to characterize and to manage the impact of climate change on nutritional properties of food and to propose adaptive strategies/measures, ensure nutrition security of populations, achieving a more inclusive, sustainable, healthy and safe future for all.
To this aim, 4 different interconnected tasks have been identified:
● Food composition and new food sources: The aim of this task will be to appreciate the evolution of food composition due to climate change and to the use of sustainable food processing (in terms of nutrients, bioactive, anti-nutrient/ allergen, natural ingredient and contaminant contents) and to identify new universally accessible, healthy and sustainable food and feed sources (in relation with WP1 and WP2).
● Bioavailability: The aim of this task will be to understand the digestion, the bioaccessibility, and bioavailability of (micro and macro) nutrients from the above foods and from sustainable diets in general, including the characterization of the impact of sustainable food production and processing (in relation with WP2).
● Physiological effects: The aim of this task will be to determine the health effects related to the consumption of sustainable and balanced diets (in relation with nutrient/ bioactive bioavailability and content, i.e. WP2, as well as in relation with WP4 and WP5).
● Dietary assessment and nutritious balanced diet: Finally, the aim of this task will be to propose sustainable and nutritious diet to tackle poor nutrition and climate change, considering national food consumption databases, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) (in relation with WP1), nutritional recommendations and dietary guidelines) (in relation with WP5).
Task 3.1. Food composition and new sources
Aim: This task intends to validate chemical/biological analyses and laboratory assays from the different partners and to evaluate the nutrition quality and food safety of the sustainable products developed in WP2. New sustainable food and/or feed sources should be understood as those produced using economic, social and environmentally sustainable practices. Additionally, strategies to improve food composition (e.g. feed supplementation, manipulation of production /cultivation conditions), which can increase food/feed content in specific nutrients, will be sought. This task will also identify constraints to the implementation of new foods (e.g. the necessity of Novel Food Certificate in Europe for microorganism’s consumption, public knowledge on the nutritional benefits of new foods, public acceptance). The challenge will be to ensure novel eco-innovative and sustainable solutions to the European food products enabling consumers to move to healthier eating habits.
Impacted stakeholders will be consumers and the food industry.
Methods: The assessment of the nutritional value and bioactive compound composition of the different matrices will be based on different parameters such as water/moisture; ash; total nitrogen (for protein), amino acids; total fat and individual fatty acids, triacylglycerols and sterols; dietary fibre, starch and total sugars; minerals and trace elements; vitamins, carotenoids, phenolic compounds and organic acids. The presence of chemical contaminants (originating from environmental contamination or from transformation/storage processes) in the raw material will be evaluated: insecticides, herbicides, fungicides PAHs and heavy metals. Finally, allergens will be considered since food allergies are a worldwide public health problem that affects up to 17 million Europeans. Methods to assess (micro)nutrients, bioactives, contaminants, and allergens will, therefore, be discussed and SPOs will be established. The nutritional quality of specific sustainable foods will then be estimated, and food composition databases will be updated in relation with WP1.
Sources: Literature and past projects including COST Action CA15136 EUROCAROTEN, SUSFOOD1, SUSFOOD2.
Task 3.2. Bioavailability (food digestion and transport)
Aim: Besides high-quality nutrient and bioactive profiles and low levels of anti-nutrients, an effective digestion process coupled to efficient nutrient uptake/absorption is required to have the desired health effects. Thus, it is mandatory to assess how climate change may affect the nutritional quality of food and food safety within food systems approach in terms of food digestion, bioaccessibility, and bioavailability and to propose adaptive strategies to ensure global/European food and nutrition security and sustainability. Bioavailability is affected across the whole food chain from the nutritional quality of production, through processing and transformation (food structure) to human digestion efficacy and interaction food-human gut microbiota. The challenge will be to underpin mechanisms influencing bioavailability of (micro and macro) nutrients and bioactives in different contexts and sources including the characterization of sustainable food production and processing and impact on food nutritional value and bioactivity throughout the lifespan. The task will likely impact all the stakeholders involved in the food system approach. A constant dialogue with agri-industry producers and manufacturers will ensure uptake of research outcomes toward more sustainable production and differentiated food products promoting healthy foods and diets. Knowledge of these questions will help inform policies regarding production and transformation.
Methods: A first step will be to standardize/harmonize methodologies for assessment of digestion, bioaccessibility, and bioavailability of nutrients by bringing together already existing harmonized models (e.g. harmonized static in vitro digestion method developed within Cost Action INFOGEST) and other different in-house research methodologies. SOPs for food samples preparation, in vitro digestion and absorption conditions, data quantification (dependent on nutrient/bioactive), collection, analysis, and formatting for comparison purposes will be developed. Then, existing knowledge on the factors impacting digestion, bioaccessibility, and bioavailability in terms of sustainable production and processing will be studied. Structure matrix effects, encapsulation and/ or synergistic effects on nutrient functionality will be reviewed. This will generate structure-function relationships allowing reliable prediction and design of matrix effects on the digestion of micronutrients. Finally, we will try to demonstrate how climate changes, by affecting food/diet composition, may indirectly impact on (macro and micro) nutrient, bioactive, and anti-nutrient bioavailability. Also, knowledge will be gathered on how i) biofortification strategies, soil fertility initiatives among other sustainable production strategies; ii) alternative dietary sources; iii) food matrix and structure manipulation, bioactives enhancement and processing applications (minimize nutrient loss and increase product shelf-life) may support high bioavailability of nutrients/bioactives in order to fulfill nutritional requirements across the life-span or contribute to reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases.
Sources: INFOGEST – Improving health properties of food by sharing our knowledge on the digestive process Cost Action FA1005; FIBREPRO – Promoting Whole Grain consumption through innovation (ERA AFRICA network); PLANTFOODS – Development of non-dairy plant-based foods and beverages. (National Innovation Agency 034036); HDHL-INTIMIC – Knowledge Platform on Food, Diet, Intestinal Microbiomes and Human Health.
Task 3.3. Physiological effects of sustainable diets
Aim: The aim of this task will be to provide proof of concept of the physiological/functional effects of a sustainable diet and give further support to the optimization of a food system approach with enhanced impact on human nutrition regarding metabolic features, optimal function, and related health and well-being. It is also considered that both poor and overnutrition cause impairment of metabolic and physiological functions. Thus, all the possible dietary scenarios must be addressed. The challenge will be to guarantee nutrient needs at different life stages to reach adequate nutrition and optimal physiological function through sustainable food sources and dietary patterns. The task will have an impact on all the stakeholders involved in the food system approach, including nutritionists and health professionals and policy makers.
Methods: The analysis will originate from data on the impact of climate change on food composition and, as well as on the individual needs in a shifting/evolving scenario. In addition, the most recent research on biological activities of dietary compounds in relation to the chemical/molecular structure doses and related bioavailability will be specifically considered. We will identify nutritional factors (macro or micronutrients, phytochemicals, microorganisms, antinutrients), potentially at risk of over or underexposure in the context of climate change and define the needs to exert biological functions in different target groups of population taking into consideration food sources (in relation with WP2 and WP4 task 1), processing and bioavailability (task 2). Then we will evaluate the physiological impact of different dietary patterns. The specific aim of this activity is to define the relevant knowledge on the physiological and metabolic effect of nutrients and non-nutrient compounds introduced through different dietary patterns (e.g. western-type diets, vegetarian/vegan, pescatarian, flexitarian…) in relation to the most updated recommendations (in collaboration with task 4) and in view of the impact of climate change. The actual available nutrients for target functions will be examined by considering different groups of the population for each critical nutrient which are determinants for health outputs (in connection to activities in WP5). Finally, we will assess the contribution of alternative sustainable food sources on physiological effects. The goal is to provide an estimation of the potential physiological impact of improved (e.g. through the implementation of food system) or novel foods when used as substitutes for other unsustainable or nutrient-poor products.
Sources: HDHL-INTIMIC-Knowledge Platform on Food, Diet, Intestinal Microbiomics and Human Health; COST Action CA16112 : Personalized Nutrition in an aging society: redox control of major age-related diseases; COST Action CA15136 EUROCAROTEN; ENPADASI: JINN-DAT – Joint Italian Network for a Nutritional phenotype data sharing infrastructure in support of nutrigenomics studies: integration of in vivo/in vitro mechanistic studies on dietary needs and health maintenance; Microorganisms in foods and humans: microbiota and metabolome as affected by vegan, vegetarian and omnivore diets (PRIN 2010-2011); MITAMED – Microbiome-tailored food products based on typical Mediterranean Diet components (PRIN 2017).
Task 3.4. Dietary assessment and nutritious balanced diet
Aim: To improve diets for sustainable food systems in terms of balanced healthy foods and macro and micronutrients intake to overcome the challenges of unhealthy and unsustainable diets. The task will have an impact for producers and consumers, and all data and indicators will be available for knowledge transfer to food system managers, policy makers, and dissemination of information and practical tips to the public.
Methods: The task activities include acquiring and sharing national databases of food intake among EU countries for analyses of actual dietary intake in Europe (in relation with WP1); establishing the composition of current observed diet in terms of nutrients and food groups intake among population groups to identify the contribution of different food sources (plant and animal) to total macro and micronutrients intake; harmonizing available individual food intake databases using common classification (FoodEx2) (in relation to WP5) merged to the GHGE and water source dataset (in relation to WP1 and WP5) for modelling diet (balanced and sustainable) and identifying main food sources from actual dietary intake responsible to high environmental impact in terms of GHGE and water source starting from literature review (in relation to WP2); analysing models for balanced diet taking into account macro and micronutrients requirements for the different population subgroups using indicators of climate change (GHGE and water) to evaluate healthy and sustainable food consumption (in relation to WP5). A possible replacement with novel food sources (in relation WP2 and cross-cutting activities) will be investigated to contribute to food and nutrition security according to the objective of FOOD 2030.
Sources: We will use concepts and data from past related projects: EU Menu framework project (support to national dietary surveys in compliance with the EU-Menu methodology – by EFSA); DeDIPAC (Determinants of Diet and Physical Activity; Knowledge Hub to integrate and develop infrastructure for research across Europe), action of the European Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) “A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life” 2013-2016. TERRAVITA (Biodiversità, Territorio Nutrizione: la sostenibilità dell’agro-alimentare italiano) (2011-2017). SUSDIET (Towards Sustainable Diets in Europe) funded in the framework of the ERANET SUSFOOD 2014-2017. SUSFANS (Metrics, Models, and Foresight for European Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security) funded by H2020, 2014-2019.
Description of the activities (networking and scientific)
The Nutrition workgroup is willing to provide evidence-based results, as well as to share data and databases that can be used across Europe. A special effort will be made to provide SOPs and write systematic reviews and/ or position papers to i) implement new values in relevant food composition tables, ii) understand from available data how climate change will impact on all aspects of nutrition (from food composition to dietary guidelines), and iii) provide recommendations for future research and innovations in the food industry (new and adapted food products economically viable, healthy and sustainable).