How can science support policy makers in addressing the nutritional challenges of Europe ?
A workshop organised within the frame of the JRC enlargement and integration action programme
There is a clear albeit complex link between nutrition and health. This workshop brought together nutrition and public health experts from EU-Enlargement and Integration Action (E&IA) countries as well as current member states to discuss this link and attempt to answer the question "How can science support policy makers in addressing the nutritional challenges of Europe?". In line with one of the workshop aims, this report summarises the nutritional issues that affect the E&IA countries and that, not surprisingly, are similar to those affecting EU-27 nations and other developed... countries. The most obvious examples are nutritional excesses such as high energy, salt or fat intake but several countries also reported micronutrient deficiencies, e.g. Vitamin D or iron. While there are many actions already in place to promote healthy and sustainable eating at all levels, from European to local level, the fact that nutrition challenges like obesity still prevail indicates that there is a need to further refine and improve these actions. Focused and targeted research is needed both on the effectiveness of particular measures or interventions as well as on how to best implement them. The participants of the workshop identified four areas where further research is required to successfully refine and improve obesity-targeting measures in a way that is based on scientific methodologies and conclusive results. These four areas are 1) Addressing limitations commonly found in nutrition and lifestyle interventions and trials 2) Assessing the effectiveness of obesity childhood interventions 3) Research into further reduction of portion size as a means to limit caloric intake 4) Exploring and identifying effective means to translating obesity research findings into actions and policies. It was not the aim of the workshop nor of this report to propose these as four priorities for research but rather to alert to the gaps in these areas and present them as four possible directions where research efforts could converge.