Unsustainable and unhealthy diets, with an increased demand for livestock products and calorie-dense and nutrient-poor foods that are often highly processed (high in calories, sugars, sodium/salt, saturated fat and alcohol, and low in wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds), are the leading NCD risk factor and a driver of high obesity rates. In Europe, at present, more than half of the adult population is overweight or obese, and children and population groups of lower socio-economic status are the most severely affected. NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are responsible for the deaths of 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally[[IPES FOOD 2019. Towards a Common Food Policy for the European Union: The policy reform and realignment that is required to build sustainable food systems in Europe. International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food systems;
ECIPE.Europe’s Obesity Challenge.2016]]. NCDs have a negative impact on both lives and health budgets but are largely preventable through effective interventions that tackle shared risk factors (such as unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco use and alcohol abuse).
The complexity of the interactions between diet and human health requires multi-level engagement and inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to improve public health and reduce Europe’s major health and economic burden. The development of new societally acceptable approaches/strategies/tools for healthy and sustainable diets that reduce diet-related NCDs requires a systemic approach involving a wide diversity of actors and sectors at different levels (from local to international). These include policy makers and public authorities, health care providers, schools and higher education establishments, food producers and processors, retailers, hospitality and food services (e.g. restaurants, canteens), researchers, non-governmental consumer and patient organisations, science brokers and private individuals.
Proposals should consider a range of diet-related NCDs, geographic, socio-economic, behavioural and cultural factors. The gender dimension of the research is particularly important for this topic. Data collected and integrated by the private and public sectors should be broken down by gender and by socio-economic groups.
Where relevant, activities should build and expand on the results of past and ongoing research projects. Selected projects under this topic (and under the HORIZON-HLTH-2022-STAYHLTH-01-05-two-stage topic: Prevention of obesity throughout the life course) are strongly encouraged to participate in joint activities as appropriate, possibly in the form of project clustering, workshops, etc. Proposals are expected to show support for common coordination and dissemination activities. Applicants should plan the necessary budget to cover such activities.
Proposals are expected to address the following:
- Mapping and monitoring of the diet-related NCD situation (e.g. cardiovascular and heart diseases, obesity, diabetes, cancer and allergies) at the EU level, based on a literature review to better understand the relationship between lifestyle (including diet, nutrition and alcohol, physical activity), physiological and genetic parameters including the human microbiome, gender and sex, geographical placement (national/regional/neighbourhood and rural/urban zone), socio-economic, cultural and environmental (with particular reference to the human exposome) factors, biological parameters (including genomics and microbiomes), and the risk of NCDs.
- Development of standardised methods for collecting (missing) data, using existing data/studies/cohorts and increasing the use of big data and artificial intelligence to elucidate the complex interactions between diet and human health.
- Development of advanced and easy-to-use biomarkers of risk/response for NCDs, including non-invasive and microbiome-based ones.
- Assessment and monitoring of the impact of existing measures/interventions/policies in the EU on reducing NCDs.
- Investigating and generating a strong evidence base for the key physiological processes involved in the development of NCDs and how they may be affected by nutrition (from specific nutrient, dietary components to foods and dietary patterns) and other factors (e.g. geographical, biological, socio-economic, cultural, environmental, educational), taking into account individual genotype-phenotype status.
- Development of a strong evidence base on the risks of unhealthy diet and unhealthy food (high in calories, sugars, sodium/salt, saturated fat and alcohol, low in wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and often highly processed) within the development of NCDs versus healthy food/products.
- Identifying high risk/vulnerable populations across Europe, better understanding their predisposition to diet-related diseases, and designing specific hypothesis-driven research and well-controlled intervention studies with very strict conditions to reduce dietary and health inequalities in different countries, regions, rural and urban areas.
- Developing more targeted recommendations for effective and cost-efficient integrated policies (such as social, fiscal, regulatory, marketing) in the short-, medium- and long term. These are to support Member States and associated countries and policy makers in designing effective and cost-efficient policies that focus on prevention and promote healthy diets to reduce diet-related NCDs, taking into account environmental, gender, social and economic sustainability aspects.
- Undertaking risk/benefit cost analyses for the different options proposed to better predict and understand effective and long-term impacts and facilitate informed policy decisions and societal debate.
The required multi-actor approach (see the eligibility conditions) must be implemented by involving a wide diversity of food system actors and conducting inter- and trans-disciplinary research.
This topic should involve the effective contribution of SSH disciplines.