In this thematic area, we study food from seed to stool, examining the food system in which food habits and associated activities of production, procurement, preparation, and consumption are shaped by socio-cultural, political-economic and environmental contexts, and how these affect nutrient intake and microbiomes, and ultimately health. Doing so allows us to develop a more holistic approach to more-than-human health in which our human health depends on the health of our food and the microbiosocial environment.
Eatwell: A Comparative Material-Semiotic Ethnography of Food Systems and More-than-Human Health in Bhutan
The primary objective is to develop an integrative approach to the study of the entanglements between heterogeneous aspects of food systems and more-than-human health through which to enrich the sustainable-food-systems-for-health agenda, One Health and Planetary Health. The five secondary objectives are: 1) Decentralize the global orientation and universalizing biology of health, nutrition, and environment through examining their situated and entangled biosocial nature. 2) Broaden the nutritional scope of ‘diet’ that underpins much of global food and health policy to look at the nourishment of full humanity in relation to biosocial environments. 3) Further develop a non-monistic integrative and interdisciplinary agenda, approach, and method for the study of food and health, enabling collaboration between nutritionists, microbiologists, sociologists, and anthropologists. 4) Establish a mutually enriching conversation between the Buddhist-informed Bhutanese approach to food and health through GNH and the global approaches to food systems for health as well as One Health and Planetary Health. 5) Prepare the necessary groundwork for developing future culture-sensitive and sustainable projects of food, health, and well-being, contributing to GNH in Bhutan and the SDGs more generally and globally.
EATWELL consists of two main parts that will be integrated. The first part consists of a comparative ethnography of food systems, examining food from seed to ingestion as well as the different activities and contexts surrounding this food transition until its eating. We do so in 7 locations across Bhutan which are selected on the basis of their different food habits. The second part involves a cross-sectional and longitudinal section in three locations where two 24-hours dietary recalls are combined into a 48-hours dietary recall and a nutritional questionnaire, both of which are conducted simultaneously with the stool sample collection for metagenomic shotgun sequencing to determine gut microbial composition and functional potentials. The anthropological, nutritional and microbiomic data sets will be correlated to discern associations between society and its seasonally patterned food-related activities, nutrient intake, and the gut microbiome, after which we can proceed with more focused follow-up research to discern potential causal relationships.
Project period: 1 December 2021 until 30 November 2027
Funding sources: Norwegian Research Council (Project nr 324158), University of Agder, The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture, and The Raes lab of Bioinformatics and (Eco-)Systems Biology at the VIB-KULeuven Center for Microbiology in Belgium (in kind).
Principal Investigator: Wim Van Daele
Internal Collaborators: Nina Cecilie Øverby, Anine Christine Medin, Erik Grasaas (admin), Elena Neri (PhD), and Kanchan Kattel (PhD)
External Collaborators: Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences Bhutan (Neyzang Wangmo, Tashi Norbu, and Sonam Chhoden), Jigme Dorji Wangchuk National Referral Hospital (Tshokey Tshokey), Royal Centre for Disease Control (Karchung Tshering), Royal Thimphu College (Tashi Choden, Samden Dolma, Tshering Jamtsho, and Karma Choki Dema), Sherubtse College (Tandin Penjor), University of Oslo (Heidi Fjeld), OsloMet (Marianne Morseth and Liv Elin Torheim)