Nutrition to achieve and maintain optimal health throughout life is one of the primary research themes within the chair group Nutritional Biology at the Division of Human Nutrition and Health. Our aim is to identify dietary strategies that optimize nutritional status to slow down or reverse stages preceding ageing related pathologies (cognitive decline, sarcopenia, osteoporosis, anorexia of ageing).
By paying due attention to the ageing process we will advance the development of tailored nutritional approaches as to prevent or slow functional decline and improve quality of life.
Over 30 years of research experience emerges from nutritional epidemiology, mechanistic studies, and human intervention studies in an experimental and real-life setting. Current emphasis is on dietary quality, protein nutrition and the efficacy of selected nutrients (B-vitamins, vitamin D, fatty acids and protein) in healthy, frail and malnourished elderly. Our research is targeting the enhancement of functional health, considering nutrients’ bioavailability and their metabolic routes.
A major cause of frailty and disability is sarcopenia. Resistance-type exercise training and nutritional supplementation are considered promising strategies to treat and/or postpone sarcopenia. Well-designed trials have been performed defining new leads for nutritional and exercise interventions. Our research concentrates on nutritional strategies to prevent or treat the progressive loss of muscle mass, strength and physical performance with ageing, using novel, sensitive and specific assessment methods.
One of the major age-related changes is a decline in cognitive functioning. Our intervention and observational studies have focused on the role of omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, vitamin D, glucose and protein in the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia. Our current research acknowledges the interactions between nutrients and foods by assessing the role of multi-nutrients and dietary patterns, thereby we aim to incorporate even more standardized neuro-psychological testing and imaging as a novel and sensitive outcome measure.
Osteoporosis is a multifactorial disease increasing bone fragility and susceptibility to fractures. Dietary therapies including vitamin D and calcium have beneficial effects on bone mass, density and turnover and a reduced risk of fractures. Evidence for associations between B-vitamin intake and bone health is diverse. In the B-PROOF trial we studied the effect of 2-year daily supplementation with vitamin B12 and folate on the reduction of fracture incidence. Current research links bone and muscle health concurrently studying the efficacy of protein nutrition and exercise.
Public health practice
An important step is to translate scientific evidence on nutrition, exercise and physical activity in relation to nutritional, functional and health status of elderly people to practice. Based on these scientific insights effective public health interventions will be developed in response to sustainability issues, practical needs and in close collaboration with local authorities and stakeholders.