by Edgar van Mil, Prof. MD, PhD, pediatric endocrinologist and special chair holder (together with Remco Havermans) Youth, Food and Health, Maastricht University – Brightlands Campus Greenport Venlo
We all need food to survive. Nutritious food is needed for a good health. This is what we all know, but when it comes down to making choices in what we define as healthy food, do we really know the value of food to our health? Or do we at least know via what mechanisms these considered good foods lead to health?
Often our knowledge on healthy food is based on epidemiological reports or experience from low income countries, especially in the case of young children. However, living in a country with an abundance of several types of foods, the difference between good, better and best is often difficult to make.
Since the development of chronic diseases such a obesity, diabetes or cardiovascular disease start early in youth, their is an increasing interest in prevention of disease in this age group.
The topic of these sessions on Youth, Food and Health cover current ideas and future projects on the interplay between psychology (e.g. eating behavior, food preference) and biology (e.g. gut health, satiety). Furthermore I will explain that a disease model can help to understand how to prevent disease and maintain health.
What drives you?
In my clinical work as a pediatric-endocrinologist at the Jeroen Bosch hospital in ‘s- Hertogenbosch I have a specialty in childhood obesity. Recently we have changed the name of our Center of expertise in Children with Obesity into Center for Health Lifestyle in Children. Although we still see patients from all around The Netherlands, often severely overweight, most of them have the same unhealthy basis in the youth. Although future pharmacological or surgical therapies will help in reaching a healthier weight, the basis of each treatment is a healthy lifestyle. Even in children with specific medical conditions, sometimes already suffering from complications of their overweight. If an unhealthy lifestyle remains, even in the case of bariatric surgery, the effects of treatment will be nullified at the end. The solution to the problem of obesity and other non-communicable disease may therefore seem easy in theory, but in practice very difficult to achieve. Indeed, changing lifestyle is changing one’s behavior, which has its roots in early childhood. This is why it is so important to understand how we can help parents to reach and maintain a healthy diet in their children.
Why should the delegate attend your presentation?
My role in the duo chair position on Youth, Food and Health, together with Remco Havermans, is to enforce the intergrated psychological-biological approach towards food preference and food choice. If you are interested in how our biology might drive our food behavior, you may learn a few things.
What emerging technologies/trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
bio-psychological: the microbiotia-gut-brain axis
medical: food as medicine
What kind of impact do you expect them to have?
The understanding in how micobiotica interact with food and metabolism, will change not only our current ideas on several disease and conditions, but also influence our therapies. In the light of the current epidemic in non-communicable diseases, a lifestyle change is much needed for prevention and curation. Food and eating behavior in general will become a definite part of the curriculum of medical students.
What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
Alternative methodological and statistical tools for measuring the impact of food intervention are needed to validly objectify and compare the effects with current knowledge. The techniques and devices needed for this purpose are largely still under development.
Lifestyle change is learning by experiencing. Start early in life and reach for the highest level of success.