Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy People

Climate change, population growth and increasing life expectancy put increasing pressure on our food system. An integral solution is hampered by scientific fragmentation. Wageningen University & Research has developed a transdisciplinary data platform to facilitate synergy between research on food production, nutrition and health.

The platform provides access to reliable data, indicators, standards and algorithms. Case studies evaluate healthy and sustainable innovations in the food system and our diet. This will foster the development of a large-scale European infrastructure for integrated food, nutrition and health research.

The global burden of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs, e.g. obesity, diabetes, CVD, malignancies), infectious diseases (e.g. malaria, measles) and the ‘double burden of disease’ in both Western and Low & Middle Income Countries (LMIC) call for optimizing the intake of nutrient-dense plant foods relative to animal-sourced foods. With the current climate concerns, this should go hand-in-hand with reducing the environmental footprint of plant- & animal-based food production, processing and distribution systems (e.g., GHG-emissions, land use). The goal of this programme is to build a multidisciplinary nexus for research on sustainability of plant- and animal-based food systems as related to healthiness of dietary patterns and environmental outcomes in various global contexts (Western, LMIC).

Food and health are of key interest to global citizens and pivotal to our human existence. Yet, research on the relationship between food systems, environmental sustainability and diet-related health of populations is fragmented and lacks common ground. The increasing environmental and disease burden calls for overcoming the boundaries that currently inhibit research across scientific disciplines and societal stakeholder groups. A common vocabulary and data-sharing are needed to identify synergies and to create solutions for environmentally sustainable food systems for healthy people.


This project aims to create a platform for sharing expertise and data that enables innovative research and that can create opportunities to make diets healthier and food systems more sustainable. In 2016, workshops and a masterclass will mobilize scientific expertise in food, social, plant, and animal science groups at Wageningen UR. Indicators will be reviewed for nutritional health, diet quality, determinants of dietary patterns, and environmental sustainability of foods and production systems. This will guide identification of relevant data sources and the design of the data platform. In 2017-19, the platform will be extended with case studies and external data sources. The project will create synergy with DISH-RI, an emerging European Research Infrastructure in the Health and Food domain.

Ultimately, the project will contribute to top-level interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder research, in- and external data sharing services, community building by education and training, and evidence-based perspectives on healthy and sustainable food systems/choices relevant to policymakers, agri-food industries and consumers.

More research: Nutrition, Public Health and Sustainability

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More research: Disease aetiology and prevention