News - May 12, 2011

Major nutrition research launched

A new Wageningen nutrition research will follow 1750 people for four years to find out more about the influence of eating habits on health.

How healthy are the residents of Wageningen and its surroundings?  To find out, the department of Human Nutrition has embarked on a multi-year nutrition research project called EetMeetWeet (Eat, measure, know). The project was launched on 9 may at the Restaurant of the Future, where the first four participants in the study, including the Mayor Gebben of Renkum and baker Stolk of Wageningen, had their blood pressure taken and were weighed and measured. The research will be looking at the nutrition, eating habits and health status of adult residents of Wageningen, Renkum and Ede. In advance of the media event, invitations to participate in the research were sent to large numbers of local residents. 'We are hoping for 10,000 participants, and we shall use a questionnaire to divide them into various groups', explains Edith Feskens, personal professor of Human Nutrition. 'We shall pick 1750 test subjects from this group. And we shall be studying their eating habits and health over a period of four years.' In particular, the professor is interested in whether a change in eating habits over four years brings about a measurable change in health status.

Middle-age spread
But how do you measure health? To find that out, the research will be multidisciplinary, and Feskens will be working with a varied group of scientists. 'We will look at blood values such as levels of fat, cholesterol and glucose, as well as at how much fat a person is carrying and where it is', explains Feskens.  'Because abdominal fat is much more dangerous than fat on the legs.'
A group of fifty overweight middle-aged men will be studied more closely. 'One of the things we shall look at is the relation between nutrition, overweight and the specific metabolism of the test subject', explains Feskens. An MRI scan will also be made to establish the distribution of fat in the body, and the pattern of gene activity in the fat can be relied on to show up any chronic inflammation processes that are present. Such inflammation processes probably play a key role in the diseases associated with overweight.