Emerging evidence indicates that the nutritional status of parents at conception, and even before, influences the lifelong physical and mental health of their future children. Worldwide action is called for in translating this knowledge into public health benefits. In Precondiet we use existing unique Norwegian health surveys linked with birth registry data to explore adolescent and pre-pregnancy diet in relation to maternal and child health outcomes. Dietary data from HUNT at adolescent age are explored. In addition, dietary data from the first 5000 participants in MoBa will be used since diet prior to pregnancy is assessed in these participants.
Our first results from this study are out. In Young-HUNT1, there was evidence of associations between dietary choices, meal patterns, and neonatal outcomes, these were similar in the pooled analyses but were attenuated to the point of nonsignificance in the smaller Young-HUNT3 cohort. Overall, energy-dense food products were associated with a small detrimental impact on some neonatal outcomes, whereas healthier food choices appeared protective. Our study suggests that there are causal links between consumption of healthy and unhealthy food and meal patterns in adolescence with neonatal outcomes for offspring some years later. The effects seen are small and will require even larger studies with more state-of-the-art dietary assessment to estimate these robustly.
Funding: University of Agder
Project leader: Nina Øverby
Project group: Elisabet Hillesund, Frøydis Vik, Wendy Van Lippevelde, Andrew Wills
In the project, PREPARED, we will explore causal relationships between preconception diet and health in the next generation in two studies and from different angles. We have recently developed a theory and evidence-based digital intervention aiming to improve prospective parents’ preconception diet and promote health in the next generation. Autumn 2021 we started recruiting participants to this study. To evaluate the effect of the intervention on subsequent pregnancy and child health, data will be linked with birth registry data. Digital interventions have the advantage of being cheap and having exceptional reach into populations previously hard to engage in research. This also provides the potential to address social inequalities in health. PREPARED will expand and generate new knowledge on the importance of preconception diet for health in the next generation, and provide a health-promoting tool that can be applied both nationally and internationally. PREPARED may give Norway a chance to participate in the forefront of this cutting-edge area of research. We aim to recruit 7000 young adults aged 20-35 in 2021/22 and first results will be available 2023.
Funding: University of Agder and PRC Lifecourse Nutrtition
Project leader: Nina Øverby, co-PI: Elisabet R. Hillesund
PhD: Erlend Larsen Valen, Lorentz Salvesen
Project group: Frøydis Vik, Anine Medin, Dagrun Engeset, Andrew Wills
Skills for Life
Skills for Life is an educational project targeting undergraduate students aiming to promote knowledge, skills and competencies needed for their immediate and long-term health and well-being. Young adults are literally carriers of the next generation, and investments into the health of young adults have been shown to positively impact health prospects of future children.
We are currently developing and will subsequently pilot a diet literacy course in cocreation with the target group. Focus group discussions (FGDs) was conducted in groups of students during fall 2019 to identify enhancers and barriers to healthy eating, their thoughts and perceptions around diet in relation to future parenthood, and their thoughts concerning sustainability issues of diet. We also explored students’ perceptions on the relevance of a diet-related life skills course and asked for advice on course content. Based on these findings a preliminary course plan was developed and subsequently discussed and modified with inputs from a group of students from the original FGDs. The adapted course will be delivered and evaluated in a group of 30 students from different faculties during spring 2023. The ultimate aim of this project is to establish an ECT-yielding university course to be offered to students every year or semester along with other relevant life skills courses.
Funding: University of Agder
Project start: October 2018 (ongoing)
Project leader: Elisabet R. Hillesund
PhD Candidate: Ida Ulrikke Valand
Master’s students: Camilla Bjornes, Julie Nordli and Line Pettersen
College students constitute a significant proportion of the young adult population in Norway. They are in their reproductive years, which is of interest regarding diet and preconception health.
In 2019 we performed a cross sectional survey among university students at the University of Agder. The objective of Studentkost was to assess young college students' diet and nutrient intake. We compared their diet to national dietary recommendations and assessed the probability of inadequate micronutrient intake for both genders using the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations, and we also evaluated its consequences on preconception health to create a groundwork for future interventions on this group.
In 2019 we enrolled 622 students aged 18-40 years. The students completed a food frequency questionnaire, including questions of supplement use, over the past 4 weeks. Intake of fruits, vegetables, oily fish, and whole grain was lower than recommended, as were mean intake of folate, iron, and iodine. Our main findings are that students have a somewhat suboptimal diet compared to the Norwegian dietary guidelines. Male students had generally lower diet quality than females. Compared to the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR), we also saw a relatively high probability of inadequate intake of several micronutrients and a very high probability for some micronutrients in a significant portion of the sample. Our findings encourage further investigation into young adults' diet.
In 2020 we performed a new cross-sectional study among first year university students. Results are not yet published.
Project leaders: Nina Øverby, Elisabet Hillesund, Anine Medin.
Sustainable Plant-based Diets in Adolescence - The VeggiSkills study
Today’s food habits are leading contributors to the global burden of disease and irreversible negative environmental changes. A radical transformation of food habits has been called for, as proposed in the EAT-Lancet Commission Report 2019, which recommended a universal plant-based diet, with limited intakes of meat and dairy products. However, not all plant-based diets are sustainable, as they can fail to provide sufficient nutrients.
This project addresses a new era of vegetarianism, where people all over the world are urged to adopt a more plant-based diet. If we are to support plant-based dietary regimes, we need to know what impacts adolescents’ choice to take on such diets, how capable they are, and the consequences of doing so. The aim of this project is therefore to investigate the effects of adolescents eating plant-based vs omnivorous diets on nutrition quality and health outcomes, their food and nutrition literacy, and to examine factors that influence adolescents’ adherence to plant-based diets.
The project comprises two substudies. In Study 1 a quantitative approach will be used to assess and compare dietary intakes, nutritional status, body composition, food and nutrition literacy and health-related behaviours in adolescents (16-24-year-olds) who eat different diets (60 vegans, 60 lacto-ovo-vegetarians, 60 non-meat eaters and 60 omnivores). In Study 2, qualitative interviews will be conducted with approximately 24 adolescents, to explore facilitating and inhibiting factors shaping the adoption of a plant-based diet.
Prinicpal Investigator (PI): Anine C. Medin (Associate Professor, University of Agder)
Synne Groufh-Jacobsen (PhD student)
Christel Larsson (Professor, University of Gothenburg)
Wim van Daele (Associate Professor, University of Agder)