EU Science Hub

A healthier future? Four research priority areas for food and diet

Graphical interpretation of one of the four exploratory scenarios showing four different futures in 2050 Graphical interpretation of one of the four exploratory scenarios showing four different futures in 2050.
©EU, 2014
Nov 27 2014

How can research in food and diets address how we will live and eat in 2050? By supporting the move towards individualised diets; by ensuring the sustainability of the future food system; by improving our understanding of links between food, nutrients and health; and by focusing on integrated policy-making. These are the main findings of a new foresight report that will support work done under Horizon 2020, the EU's funding programme for Research and Innovation for 2014-2020.

In the EU, life expectancy increases by 2.5 years per decade, but only 75-80% of total life expectancy is spent in good health. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or cancer, as well as poor lifestyle choices such as unhealthy diets constitute a major health challenge.

This study implies that our future diet will be tailored to individual needs. Research should focus on creating the necessary underpinning knowledge while defining the framework, risks and benefits of individualised dietary advice.

It highlights the need for a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to make foods and diets healthier. The whole food system needs to be addressed to reduce the importance of diet as a risk factor for chronic diseases.

Effective policies are identified as a major area where more research is needed to support the development of a future-proof food system. A better understanding of the complexities of human nutrition and strong scientific evidence could create the basis for successful and coherent policy-making focused on prevention. Science-based tools and methodologies are needed to translate scientific evidence into easy to understand dietary guidelines and to ensure their take-up.

The report is being released at an international conference on future-oriented technology analysis "Engage today to shape tomorrow", taking place on 27-28 November in Brussels. The event, organised by the European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), focuses on the strategic foresight, forecasting and assessment of future technologies.
 

Background

The foresight study was carried out by the European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), and co-financed by DG Research and Innovation. It focuses on the European consumer, considering various factors that influence dietary habits such as lifestyle, working patterns, food supply or economic situation. The aim is to help policymakers formulate and prioritise research needs. The study will support the identification of research priorities for funding under Horizon 2020, and can also be used by relevant stakeholders and interested parties to trigger further discussions on the future food system.