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Food quality and food innovative strategies to prevent reproductive and eating disorders

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - REP-EAT (Food quality and food innovative strategies to prevent reproductive and eating disorders)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2021-04-30

The REP-EAT project is an innovative, multi-disciplinary and cross-sector Doctoral Programme addressing the relations between food habits and reproductive health (REP) and eating disorders (EAT).
The project focussed on three main problems:
1) Nutrition science has greatly developed in the past decades, turning from the consideration of foods as simply energy sources to the recognition of their role in maintaining health and in reducing the incidence of diseases. Nevertheless, very limited is the knowledge on food-related mechanism affecting human and animal physiology. New analytical methods help in clarifying these aspect, mainly related to the holistic omics approach. In theory, they can offer new instruments to connect food components, diet, individual diet habit to health and diseases. In practice, we are still far to understand these connection, which needs not only technologies but mainly a broad “foodomics” vision.
2) Even if eating disorders are relatively common, they are often overlooked although they are associated with high comorbidity and serious health consequences. At EU level, eating disorders result in about 7,000 deaths a year, making them the mental illnesses with the highest mortality rate with a mean cost per discharge of a person risen by 29% over a decade (WHO, 2016).
3) The impact of food habits on reproductive health starts to be comprised in its powerful, even if remain to clarify the mechanism involved. Food may influence individual reproductive function by operating at each reproductive step. The environmental effectors (food included) might exert their influences immediately, hampering gametes/embryo/foetal development, or later in the adult life, in what has been defined the “Barker Hypothesis”: the embryo/foetal exposure to various stressors results in “programming” the genome for the onset of cardiovascular, metabolic diseases in the adult, or even transmitted to the next generation by compromising the birth of a living newborn but also unpredictable long term effect on adult animals and human well-being.
Consequently, the overall objectives of the project are:
• Develop translational approaches (animal vs. human) and multidisciplinary research teams to successfully address the current challenges thus creating the unique operative condition to understand lifestyle factors (toxic or bioactive food compounds, nutraceuticals), their interactions and the extent to which they contribute to health preservation and/or to disease development;
• Train a new generation of creative, entrepreneurial and innovative Early Stage Researchers (ESRs), who can handle effectively with the new frontiers and advances in food and health disciplines.
The project accomplished all the main activities foreseen for the first two years period. The first months of the project were dedicated to the opening of the REP-EAT website, to establish the management model and to recruit the ESRs. The selection and recruitment was successful and operated accordingly the EU recommendations. As main result, 12 ESRs were recruited and undertook independent and personalized training and research career development plans.

The most part of ESRs, almost completed the planned training and started with personal research programmes. Secondments in relation with the academic and non-academic partner institutions have been fruitful implemented. This turned out in a greater visibility of the project itself and of the initial research results.
Mandatory collective training activities have been organized with the ESRs attendance to the 2018 joint scientific meeting of the Italian Society of Developmental and Cell Biology Conference.
Dissemination and Communication supported the entire project duration up to now. All the materials are available on OpenAire and can be acceded by the project website. Information and project releases have been spread out by the main Social Networks and Local, National and International media.
As for training, the project is trying to integrate traditional training formats with personalized methodological training and with Open Knowledge and Creativity Management Techniques and Tools. This effort is aimed at taking actively into account contributions and contents from the not-academic partners but also at strengthening the entrepreneurial mindset of the ESRs and the possibilities of innovative connections among research, industry, government and civil society by adopting a reverse incubation approach to innovation.
In research areas, expected results are:
FOOD: ESRs will be trained to obtain food with improved nutritional and health benefits thanks to the complementary interaction of food technology, food microbiology and analytical sciences, by applying a problem solving and critical thinking integrated approach;
REP-FOOD: innovative knowledge will be gained about the impact of dietary on reproduction and cellular development, with the aim of unravelling the role of specific food components in physiological and pathological states;
EAT-FOOD: new signalling and multi-tracking pathways of food bioactive molecules on cell components and microbiome in physiological or in pathological conditions will be identified;
REP-EAT: a better understanding of the interaction of food quality and of food-related pathologies that link eating mis-habits to fertility will be achieved.
Consequent impacts that will be reached by the end of the project are:
Enhanced career perspectives for selected ESRs (R/T): the Career Development Plan of each ESR has been designed to reinforce (1) research knowledge and techniques,(2) know-how required to translate the results into innovative solutions or new ideas, (3) practical experience in service and companies contexts (clinic, food and/or food technology, pharmaceutical or genetics, etc.), (4) communicative skills, (5) scientific writing for publications and proposals aims, (6) entrepreneurial capacity, which will let them to develop their own companies where their discoveries and new ideas will be transformed into products for increasing health and welfare of the EU citizens.
Amplified R&I public investments on health and food trough synergy with the RIS3: The project will reinforce SIE funds investment through the synergy with EU Marie Curie actions by sharing a cohesion-oriented strategy by: 1. enabling the relevant regional and EU actors to contribute in synergy to the development of high quality human resources and by introducing a trans-national dimension and multi-sectoral cooperation dimension; 2. increasing the numerical and/or qualitative impact of ESF investments, in terms of supported researchers or working/employment conditions.
Fostered implementation of H2020 and MSCA programme: REP-EAT drives to research excellence, thus encouraging regional, national and international organization networks in generating a complementary and strong internal interdisciplinary, international and intersectoral mobility and career development, as well as a projects’pipeline for future joint research and doctoral initiatives that will be combine with EIT Food and Food and Health Strategies within the future FP9 2021-2027.