German Research Boost for Improving Heart Health

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17 Feb 2017 --- Three universities have joined forced with nutrition and agriculture institutions in Germany to form NutriCARD, aiming to research and analysis the production and marketing of heart-healthy food.

NutriCARD is the inter-state German alliance of the Martin Luther University in Halle (Saxony-Anhalt), the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena (Thuringia) and the Leipzig University (Saxony) on matters of nutritional and health research. 

“NutriCARD is thus something new for the research landscape in Central Germany. Various individual competences of the sites are bundled in this cluster and used synergistically,” explains Dr. Toni Meier.

“We are concerned with the question of how one can lower cardiovascular and metabolic diseases with intelligent and goal-oriented nutrition. In Germany alone, approximately 157,000 premature deaths could be avoided each year with nutrition that is healthier for the heart,” he says.

“Applied to Europe, projections start at approximately two million preventable deaths. With many consumers, however, pointing a warning finger is unlikely to lead to any real improvement. After all, every walk in the supermarket is also a little challenge that many consumers have to master on a daily basis.”

“Color, design, brands, taste and price ultimately influence our purchasing decision and often lead to a certain degree of confusion among consumers. Health is not always the top priority,” explains the scientist. “The main task of nutriCARD is the health upgrading of familiar foods by means of reformulations that do not change anything in the flavor or appearance of the products. We would like the consumer’s first choice to be the healthy choice.” 

We are researching this and producing “open knowledge”. We make the results available to foodstuff producers free of charge. But it is best to explain it using an example,” adds Meier.
Vitamin D is needed for a healthy cardiovascular system and sturdy bones, but the majority of Germans are not sufficiently supplied with it, according to Meier.

Apart from fish and mushrooms, there are hardly any foodstuffs with significant vitamin D quantities and artificial enrichment is greatly restricted explains Meier. 

“Together with the researchers of the University of Halle and of Agrargenossenschaft Pretzsch e.G., we have supported the body’s own formation of vitamin D in animals with the use of UV light in the coops of laying hens.

“Under optimal conditions, we achieve a vitamin level one to five times higher than that in conventional eggs.” 

The partners from Jena have managed, for the first time, to replace animal fats in a “Lyoner” sausage with fiber, without impairing its appearance or flavor. And the researchers from Leipzig are dealing with the question of how the sometimes questionable quantities of saturated fatty acids in our food can be replaced with proteins from the lupine. 

One product that is already on the market is the dairy Herzgut in Thuringia sells the OMEghurt, a yogurt enriched with Omega 3 fatty acids.

Salt, sugar and fat 
According to Meier, too much salt, sugar and fat cost the German health care system approximately €17 billion (US$18.1 billion) in direct treatment costs. 

“Even a slight fall could reduce more than just the economic consequences. The mortality rate from widespread diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, different forms of cancer and secondary diseases of obesity would be substantially influenced”, explains Toni Meier.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), granted €5 million (US$5.3 million) for the period from 2015-18 and following an interim audit in 2018, the cluster may get further funding until 2021. 

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