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Preventing disease through what we eat:

Eating healthily can prevent many diseases. Three research projects in Germany are investigating the connection. 

AuthorSabine Giehle , 29.03.2023
A Mediterranean diet could protect against dementia.
A Mediterranean diet could protect against dementia. © AdobeStock

Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death around the world, and it ranks in first place in Germany, too. An imbalanced diet contributed to almost half of these deaths. Now, nutriCARD, a competence cluster for nutrition and cardiovascular health, aims to change that. Over 40 scientists at the universities of Halle, Jena and Leipzig, which are involved in the cluster, are collaborating with around 80 non-university partners. 

“Nowadays we are well aware of how certain foods can promote good health and how certain foods have the potential to cause harm,” says Professor Stefan Lorkowski, who coordinates the research network, when he spoke at an awards ceremony for the project. nutriCARD’s job is to find ways of transferring the results of scientific research into foods and nutrition plans which are easy to understand and suitable for daily life.  

DZNE – protecting against dementia 

Food also plays a major role not only in the development of cognitive faculties, but also in how these can be impaired. A Mediterranean diet reduces the long-term risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. A diet rich in vegetables, legumes, fruit, grains, fish can help, along with using unsaturated fatty acids like olive oil wherever possible. Eating too many milk products, red meat and saturated fats should be avoided. This was the outcome of a study by DZNE, the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases, which explored the causes of and potential treatments for dementia and other as-yet incurable neurodegenerative diseases

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“This so-called Mediterranean diet seems to slow down certain processes of degradation in the brain,” explains the leader of the study, Professor of Neuropsychology Michael Wagner. He and his team studied the memory performance of over 500 test subjects with an average age of 70. They found that amongst other characteristics, participants who regularly ate fish and vegetables did better in the memory tests. 

Food & You – Personalised nutrition 

Food & You is a large-scale citizen science research project taking place in Switzerland and Germany under the leadership of TU Munich. It aims to show how different people react to foods. One area of research for the project is how blood sugar levels differ after consuming the same food or drink.  

The project aims to develop an algorithm which can predict individual blood sugar reactions and thereby provide personalised nutrition advice. Information about an individual’s reactions and characteristics are used to develop a targeted and tailored nutrition strategy. 


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