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How does your diet affect your health?

In order to live a good life, it is important to have good health, and that means having good eating habits. The research group FEED conducts research on how the things we eat affect our lives.

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Gruppebilde av forskningsgruppen FEED

The members of FEED. From the left: Nina Cecilie Øverby, Marianne Skreden, Elisabet R. Hillesund, Sissel Helland, Frøydis N. Vik, Christine Helle, Elling Bere and Sigrunn Hernes. 

FEED belongs to the Department of Public Health, Sport and Nutrition, as a part of the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, and currently have eight members. 

“We are a group composed of a variety of competences. We have, among others, a paediatrician, nutritionists, a child psychologist and dieticians in the group,” said Nina Cecilie Øverby, professor and group leader.

This summer, the group has existed for a year and a half.

“We found each other thematically. Since we all had projects tied to diets in a person’s early development, it was natural to join as a group. Now we are working to specialize our competence and to become clearer on where we are, locating the gaps in the research and figuring out how to close those gaps,” said Øverby.

Food as a deciding factor 

Professor Nina Cecilie Øverby

Professor Nina Cecilie Øverby, leader of the FEED research group.

“We know how much food plays a part in our health. Today’s society is dealing with great challenges when it comes to people’s everyday diet, and this is the deciding factor for why people are becoming increasingly ill,” said the professor.

In order to make a difference, the researchers are focusing on the groups of people where the profits of a healthy diet is the most profitable, namely small children and pregnant women.

“There is a window of approximately one thousand days from the day a child is born until it is two and a half years old. It is in this period one has the biggest opportunity to change how children's diets will affect their future health. One of our research points is to test ways of promoting a healthy diet in this period.

Research on pregnant women 

FEED have had several projects concerning the dietary habits among different groups of people.

In collaboration with Sørlandet Hospital, HF doctorate degree student Elisabet R. Hillesund has, among others, studied the diets of pregnant women and how it affects both mother and child. Hillesund’s doctorate was recently approved and will be distributed in June 2015.

Frøydis Nordgård Vik has studied the consequences of free, healthy and varied school lunches. For the past year, her research has focused on how free food to elementary school kids in Birkenes has affected their health and social life.

At the same time, Sissel Heidi Helland has studied how one can teach two year olds to try new foods, increasing the likelihood of a varied diet. The project is called Barns matmot and is supported by the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association.

The Next Generation of Nutrition Pamphlets 

Traditionally, the health authorities have tried to distribute the information on the importance of a healthy and varied diet to parents through pamphlets at public health centres. Research fellow Christine Helle is in the process of making video clips to make parents more aware of the significance of what their children eat.

“This is particularly important when we can see how many parents who go online to find information,” said Øverby. 

Aiming for bigger applications

The research group has many collaborators. The biggest are Sørlandet Hospital HF and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The University of Stavanger, the University of Oslo and a research community in Australia are also contributors.

“We will continue the exciting work we do in FEED. In the time ahead, we will be aiming towards submitting even bigger applications,” said Nina Cecilie Øverby.

Text and photo: Øivind Eskedal