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DSM and UMCG co-host landmark workshop on nutrient density

Kaiseraugst, CH, 18 Feb 2014 10:15 CET

DSM and University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) today co-host a landmark workshop on an essential new health concept: nutrient density.

The distinction between nutrient density and energy density is an important one. Whereas nutritionists have traditionally focused on the energy density of foods, lifestyle changes and the rise of lifestyle-related non-communicable diseases require a new way of thinking about food intake – one based on the density of its nutritional content.

Entitled ‘Nutrient-Energy Density’, the workshop, which takes place at UMCG in Groningen, Netherlands, will bring together experts from DSM, UMCG, the universities of Maastricht (Netherlands), Southampton (UK) and Stuttgart (Germany), and the nutrition companies Nestlé and FrieslandCampina. It will be followed by the inaugural lecture of Dr Manfred Eggersdorfer, Professor of Healthy Ageing at the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Groningen and Senior Vice President Nutrition Science & Advocacy at DSM, who will speak on the topic of ‘Micronutrients and Healthy Ageing – Perspectives’.

One of humankind’s most remarkable achievements is increased life expectancy. Until the 1950s, this increase was driven by reductions in child mortality. Since that time, however, an important driver has been the reduction of mortality among the elderly. For many, however, this gain in years of life does not automatically mean a gain in years of healthy life: Non-communicable diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes, cardio-vascular diseases, and cancer are on the rise, and they frequently dominate the last decade of life.

Decrease in physical activity and changing dietary habits have, meanwhile, led to a continuous increase in overweight and obesity. Rates of adult obesity are now three to four times higher than they were 30 years ago. Caloric intake needs to be reduced in order to restore energy balance and hence a healthy body weight. However, as requirements for essential nutrients remain high, this necessitates a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods.

Mounting evidence indicates that lifestyle factors, including nutrition, have substantial effects on the risk of developing non-communicable diseases,” explains Professor Folkert Kuipers of UMCG. “Unfortunately, most people currently do not choose a lifestyle that allows for optimal health. Even in affluent countries, major gaps in the intakes of essential nutrients such as vitamins exist.”

A joint initiative by academia, governmental organizations and industry, this workshop aims to achieve progress in developing the nutrient-density approach. Its results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

A paradigm shift from hunger satisfaction to healthy nutrition is required! Options for affordable nutrient-enriched products that can cover nutritional needs in consumer diets should be developed jointly by scientists and the food industry,” states Professor Eggersdorfer of DSM. “Food and beverage producers should be enabled to make their offerings healthier. Nutrient fortification as well as by replacing or reducing amounts of unhealthy ingredients such as saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, sodium and sugar would be a major step along the road to good nutrition.”

University Medical Center Groningen

University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) is one of the largest hospitals in the Netherlands and it is the biggest employer in the North of the country. A staff of over 11, 000 people work in patient care and in leading medical research, focusing on ‘healthy ageing´. For its research and educational function the hospital has close ties with University of Groningen. Some 3,400 students are currently enrolled in degree courses to become physicians, dentist, or movement scientist, and over 450 are doing a medical residency. Patients come to UMCG for basic care, but also for highly specialized diagnostics, examinations or treatment. All patients in the North of the country with complicated or rare conditions are eventually referred to UMCG. Excellent care is always based on the latest insights and given by the best doctors and nursing staff. Together with the support services they always focus on that one common goal: building the future of health.