Research Approach

nutriCARD follows a translational and interdisciplinary research approach in nutritional sciences.
Basic and applied research projects are envisaged and described below.

Developing and validating "cardioprotective" foods

Changing the composition of traditional foods towards healthier ingredients (less fat and salt) without affecting taste or texture, and producing innovative and healthy food products with high sensory quality (by using innovative food technology); scientific data collection and efficacy testing of cardioprotective food in human intervention studies

Better understanding the cardiovascular disease (CVD) process

Development and establishment of translational research approaches to unravel the contribution and molecular actions of nutrients/metabolites to CVD, to identify the association between diet/lifestyle and biomarkers in CVD

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Informing consumers and educating "multipliers"

Development of nutritional strategies for the prevention of cardiovascular illness considering gender, age, and lifestyles; as well as communication strategies to inform the public.

nutriCARD Research Projects

Cardioprotective foods

The western diet is characterized by high levels of calories, salts, fats, and saturated fatty acids (SFA); as well as an excessive consumption of simple sugars and an inadequate consumption of fish, fruits and vegetables or food with a balanced proportion of poly-unsaturated fatty acids, such as MUFA and PUFA, fiber and Vitamin K and D. Yet evidence shows that a reduction in nutritional energy and saturated fatty acids (SFA) are key factors in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

Aims

nutriCARD aims to improve cardiovascular health and to prevent cardiovascular diseases in our ageing society by establishing a novel and highly visible nutritional R&D platform.

Methods

For the development of new fat reduced sausage formulations the concept of fat replacement by plant proteins and/or fibers will be achieved. Therefore, adapted process management and improved processing techniques will be used. In perspective dairy and bakery products, snacks and convenience products will be improved. In addition to reduced SFAs, a goal will be to create foods with health-enriching nutrients/ingredients, such as n-3 long-chain fatty acids, vitamin D, protein and fiber.

Exchange of knowledge and informing the consumer

In addition to preliminary projects being developed by the three universities, products are already on the market (MUFA and PUFA-enriched butter, yoghurt-enriched with n-3 PUFA from marine sources, lupine protein-enriched ice cream). The product range will be continually expanded. Close cooperation with regional SMEs from the food industry is in place. By studying consumer attitudes while incorporating local food laws, the launching of cardio-protective foods into the market should progress successfully, also enhanced by acceptance studies and market potential analysis. Human intervention trials will be performed to determine physiological effects of these new cardio-protective foods.

Project P1A

Project coordinator: Prof. Dr. Peggy G. Braun, Leipzig University

The objectives of WP1A1 to WP1A4 are the development of three types of reduced-fat sausages (raw, scalded and cooked sausages) with textural, sensory and satiating properties comparable to full-fat variants as well as techno-functional properties which are essential for the manufacturing process. These products will be enriched with either legume proteins, dietary fibers and n-3 LC-PUFA or a combination of these valuable nutrients.

The following work packages are in place:

WP1A1: Development of protein enriched sausage

WP1A2: Development of fiber enriched sausage

WP1A3: Development of both fiber and protein-enriched sausages

WP1A4: Development of n-PUFA enriched sausages

WP1A5: Production of vitamin D3 enriched hen eggs

Project P1B

Project coordinator: Prof. Dr. Peggy G. Braun, Leipzig University

Aims of the WP1B1 – 3 of the Cluster Module 1 are the validation of quality, safety, acceptance and health benefits of the cardio-protective foods as well as the delivery of pilot foods/prototypes for the human intervention studies. The aim is to determine the physiological effects after regular consumption of the cardio-protective foods (WP1B4, second funding period).

The following work packages are planned:

WP1B1: Food quality

WP1B2: Food safety

WP1B3: Consumer acceptance

WP1B4: Human intervention study

Project P1C

Project coordinator: Prof. Dr. Steffi G. Riedel-Heller, Leipzig University

The aim of this partial project is the preparation and support of a successful market launch of cardio-protective foods as well as the development of specific advertising strategies to clearly communicate to the consumer the health benefits and the regional origin (Central Germany) of these cardio-protective foods. Attitudes of the German general population regarding the preferences and concerns towards the cardio-protective foods and the willingness to pay for these foods will be assessed by conducting a quantitative and representative survey.

Therefore the following work packages are implemented:

WP1C1: Consumer attitudes towards cardio-protective foods

WP1C2: Market potential analyses

WP1C3: Produce specific advertising strategies / development of a media strategy plan

Biomarker and Mechanisms

For many years total cholesterol, LDL-C and HDL-C concentrations have been used as the gold standard biomarkers for cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk prediction; yet it has now been established that large numbers of patients with symptomatic CVD have LDL-C levels within the "normal" range, leading to the urgent need for additional diagnostic and prognostic tools. A list of nutritional biomarkers which reliably reflect food intake and as well as monitoring the effect of interventions is a key issue for the development of cardio-protective foods and will aid in the planning of new intervention studies.

Aims

To unravel the mechanisms of nutrients, in particular vitamin D, lupin protein, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) involved in the process of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular ageing, to identify their biosignatures and to determine specific biomarkers of nutrient intake, suitable cell and animal models are required. No model completely mimics human physiology and cardiovascular pathophysiology, but the combination of various animal models (e.g. murine models, pigs) may provide more valid data which may help to address different aspects in the process of atherosclerosis.

Methods

Genome wide association studies (GWAS) have reported on a large number of single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) loci that are associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD). It is well known that many diseases, such as CVD, show gender-specific manifestations. Within the Cluster Module 2 the genetic regulation of nutritional biomarkers will be investigated by performing genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in different cohorts. Furthermore models of atherosclerosis (in vitro and using animal models) are planned. In parallel a human intervention study “MoKaRi - Modulation of cardiovascular risk factors” has been initiated to evaluate the efficacy of a nutritional coaching program and a cardio-protective diet for adults with increased risk for CVD.

From research to practice; sharing of knowledge

The availability of large and exceptionally well characterized cohorts will lead to the identification of novel biomarkers for CV health or CVD including information about possible causality factors. The validation of biomarkers identified in basic research will enable us to develop nutritional prevention strategies, respective recommendations and innovative cardio-protective food.

Project P2A

Project coordinator: Prof. Dr. Gabriele I. Stangl, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

This project is motivated by the growing interest in the impact of nutrients on the prevention of CVD. The ultimate goal is to demonstrate the modes of bio-molecular and functional actions of nutrients on cardiovascular processes.

Therefore the following work packages will be implemented:

WP2A1: Interaction of vitamin D and phosphate on cardiac performance and vascular cell signaling

WP2A2: Identification of biosignatures by uptake of lupin protein versus meat protein

WP2A3: Novel cardioprotective mechanisms of long-chain n-3 PUFA

Project P2B

Project coordinator:
Prof. Dr. Stefan Lorkowski (Friedrich Schiller University Jena) / Winfried März (Medical Clinic V, Medical Faculty Mannheim, Heidelberg University)

The project aims to identify, characterize and validate biomarkers and gene-nutrient interactions.

Therefore the following work packages will be implemented:

WP2B1: Intervention study – Modulation of cardiovascular risk factors by personal nutritional counselling (MoKaRi)

WP2B2: Validation of potential biomarker candidates

WP2B3: Identification of new biomarkers reflecting food intake

Communication and Education

The sharing of knowledge, or applying research results to real-life in the field of nutritional science, will require a novel approach and in particular, the development of concepts for specific target groups. To address all life-phases and age groups, and by educating the broader population on the need for a healthier diet, various strategies including media input will be necessary.

Aim

To ensure a sustainable improvement in cardiovascular health, health-promoting nutritional behavioral must begin to change at an early age. The sharing of scientific results, the development of innovative foods and designing strategies to alter nutritional behavior and lifestyle of the public will be achieved with regard to the needs of specific target-groups. Therefore concepts for age- and gender-specific prevention strategies based on the latest scientific findings will be developed and implemented. Additional "multipliers" from university and non-university settings will be utilized to promote these goals.

Methods

Qualitative interviews, observational studies, conducting focus groups and quantitative surveys are methods to evaluate the users’ needs and attitudes and will form the basis for the development of new concepts for consumer education on achieving a healthier lifestyle. Innovative tools such as social media and new information and communication technologies will also be implemented.

From research to practice; a knowledge transfer

Within nutriCARD scientific partners with longstanding experience in medicine, business, and nutritional sciences will work together in teams of specialists from the behavioral and communications sciences as well as using “multipliers” in the field.  Multipliers are those trained to impart knowledge and expertise to the public at large. The primary tasks of the scientists will be to generate and interpret study results and to incorporate them into publications with the aim of informing the public through establishing dietary guidelines and recommendations.

Project P3A

Project coordinator: Prof. Dr. Christine Brombach (Friedrich Schiller University Jena)

This partial project aims to develop innovative concepts in disease prevention and broaden consumer communication strategies to improve nutritional behavior and lifestyle. Thus, nutriCARD will suggest health-promoting dietary patterns and health-promoting nutritional behavior using new comprehensive approaches according to the needs and habits of population subgroups with respect to gender, age, stage of life (e.g. pregnancy, lactation) while also considering social and psychological factors.

Therefore, the following work packages will be implemented:

WP3A1: Improving eating behavior in young families

WP3A2: Improving eating behavior in preschool children and their families

WP3A3: Mass media communication strategies

WP3A4: Altering dietary patterns of the broader population by considering individual aspects

WP3A5: Development, optimization and validation of innovative tools to improve nutritional knowledge and competencies of the target groups

WP3A6: nutriRECIPE – Development, optimization and implementation of recipes to improve the nutritional quality of food consumed out-of-home

WP3A7: Validation of tools and concepts developed for improving nutritional behavior

Project P3B

Project coordinator: Dr. Christine Dawczynski (Friedrich Schiller University Jena)

The cluster module aims to implement new and improved up-to-date curricula in nutritional education and focuses on the training of ‘multipliers’ who will transfer the “health-promoting” knowledge to all population subgroups, at this time mainly in central Germany. Curricula will be developed for university and non-university institutions which will be responsible for the education of junior researchers and multipliers as well as the dissemination of scientific and nutritional information.

Therefore the following work packages are implemented:

WP3B1: Advancing existing courses and developing new concepts for "Non-university education" (NUE) of health promoting experts

WP3B2: Creating synergies and developing new concepts and courses for "university education" UE of health promoting experts

 

Examples for applied Interdisciplinary nutriCARD-projects are:

  • nutriCARD initiated the ‘Action alliance - growing up healthy’ (Aktionsbündnis - Gesund aufwachsen) in the framework of the ‘State Health Conference’ (Landesgesundheitskonferenz, LGK). Here, the key issues are nutrition, physical activity and dental health. Project partners are the State Sport Federation (Landessportbund, LSB), and the State Consortium for Youth Dental Care in Thuringia (Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft Jugendzahnpflege Thüringen e.V.).
  • nutriCARD will implement concepts for gamification as a useful tool in nutritional counselling and education of children of different ages. The first educational game is in the evaluation stage and will be available as a prototype soon. (cooperation partner: Department of Game and Learning Design, Burg Giebichenstein, University of Art and Design, Halle)
  • nutriCARD supports the conception of teaching materials on the topics of nutrition and diet-related disorders for the age group 12-13 years (German classes 7 and 8) in collaboration with the DGE section Thuringia, the Barmer GEK Thuringia and the Department of Biology Didactics, Friedrich Schiller University Jena.
  • nutriCARD has designed a handbook for nutritional education in schools. Particular emphasis is placed on the development of a teaching garden.