Nutrition, obesity and the metabolic syndrome

Diet is an important determinant of a cluster of cardiometabolic risk factors what is generally called the Metabolic Syndrome. This cluster includes abdominal obesity, such as measured by elevated waist circumference, high glucose levels, high triglyceride levels and low HDL-cholesterol concentrations, and elevated blood pressure. Persons with Metabolic Syndrome are at increased risk of developing type diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The topic Nutrition, obesity and metabolic syndrome at the Division of Human Nutrition and Health of Wageningen University is studied using various study designs and methods. Regarding the etiology we use prospective cohort studies as well as human intervention studies. The role several nutrients, foods and dietary patterns on the Metabolic Syndrome and its underlying risk factor insulin resistance are being studied. In addition, the topic is also addressed from a public health point of view, in the Netherlands as well as in the developing countries. This includes studies on the prevention of weight gain and development of type 2 diabetes in the general community.

Research topics

Effect of protein and dairy foods

Observational studies indicate that in healthy individuals consuming a high-protein non-restricted diet is associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. However, as a dietary strategy, high-protein non-energy-restricted diets, containing more than 20 En% of protein, might be helpful for obese people in reducing body weight and increasing insulin sensitivity. A better understanding of relationship between dietary protein intake and the metabolic syndrome is therefore needed.

Effect of carbohydrates and glycemic index

Carbohydrates are an energy source which is currently in the center of attention: do we eat them too much or too little? In the PREVIEW study (link) we study the hypothesis that diet with low GI (low glycemic index) products (such as rye bread, pulses, pasta) can help to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. In addition, we focus on added sugars and specific sugars such as fructose, lactose, sucrose, added sugars and free sugars.

Dietary patterns and polyphenol-rich foods

In addition to several energy providing nutrients we also investigate bioactive compounds, such as those occurring in tea, chocolate, and various fruits and vegetables.
In addition, we investigate potential health effects of dietary patterns, as people do not consume a food or a nutrient in isolation, but as part of a dietary pattern, for example the Mediterranean diet.

Gestational Diabetes and Global Prevention

Women with gestational diabetes (GDM) have elevated glucose levels during pregnancy, which disappear after the baby is born. However, GDM imposes health risks on mother and infant during delivery as well as later in life. This causes an inter-generational cycle of obesity and diabetes. These health issues are on the rise not only in the Netherlands, but also globally, especially in the emerging economies. Hence, several research projects have been developed in Africa (Tanzania, South-Africa) and Asia (Vietnam, China).
To prevent the occurrence of type 2 diabetes in subjects at risk we developed a combined lifestyle intervention. In the SLIMMER project we investigate to what extend this program works and is cost-effective. In addition, we especially focus on population groups which need healthy lifestyles the most: people from lower socio-economic classes and ethnic groups such as from Turkish or Moroccan origin.

Current key projects