SysDiet – the search for healthy Nordic meals
Through SysDiet, Nordic researchers will be studying the health effects of Nordic food and Nordic meals.
SysDiet is the name of a newly started Nordic Centre of Excellence focused on food, nutrition and health. "Systems biology in controlled dietary interventions and cohort studies" is the full name of the centre, which will be co-ordinated from Finland. Research environments from all the Nordic countries will be participating in the 5-year programme in which Matforsk and Akershus University College are the two environments involved from Norway.
Large Matforsk team
"We are really looking forward to this co-operation between the food product, nutrition and medical environments, because the leading professional environments in nutrigenomics / systems biology in the Nordic countries are being grouped together. This is an important network that quite clearly will provide results for our long-term food product research," says Grethe Iren Borge, who is the contact person for SysDiet at Matforsk. Many persons from different professional environments at Matforsk – including researchers, engineers, research fellows and post-docs – will gradually become involved in the research connected with the centre. "This requires interdisciplinary work," says Grethe Iren.
"We will be receiving funds to cover the expenses of personnel exchanges between the Nordic environments, to hold courses and workshops and to accommodate guest researchers, and especially to finance research fellowships and post-doc positions. This means that we must seek external funds for research projects where we can have dietary studies carried out," she continues.
Dietary studies of the future
It is difficult to document precisely what type of diet has the best preventive potential, particularly when it concerns chronic illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular illnesses and diabetes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has calculated that more than half of all deaths in the world in 2005, approx. 26 million people, were due to these illnesses.
"The purpose of the studies is to determine the characteristics of Nordic food and meals that promote health and prevent chronic illnesses. The complexity of such studies is substantial. However, we hope to be able to understand more about typical Nordic raw materials during the course of the programme," says Grethe Iren.
Dependant upon statistical competency
"What is new and promising, and especially challenging, are the use of new techniques such as transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics, etc. that make it possible to analyse the overall condition of a cell or organism in relatively simple experiments," explains Grethe Iren. It generates enormous quantities of data that require professional management. The centre will utilise Matforsk’s competence in data analysis and statistics in order to gain more detailed and new knowledge about how the food we eat affects our bodies and our cells. This is important knowledge that may provide the Norwegian food products industry with a better basis from which to perform further product development.
"Imagine if we could contribute to a breakthrough in dietary research and the development of more tangible dietary strategies based upon increased co-operation between professional environments for food products, biochemistry and nutritional science – all connected together using advanced tools and new methods for data analysis. It would be incredibly exciting!" says Grethe Iren.
"We must contribute to a bridge being built between the professional environments involving genomes, proteomes, metabolisms and bioinformatics, and work closely together with environments that have the best competence in performing human nutrition studies," says Borge, referring to the growing and exciting co-operation with the nutrition environments at Akershus University College and the University of Oslo.