About the Centre for Sustainable Diets
The Centre for Sustainable Diets was established in January 2023 with the aim of becoming a leading knowledge and research centre, paving the way towards a more sustainable diet for all, through monitoring and interdisciplinary research.
The Centre will investigate:
- How do changes in climate and the environment, as well as sustainability measures, affect the Norwegian diet (i.e., consumption of foods, nutrient intake and exposure to unfavourable substances such as environmental toxins, natural toxins, process-induced substances)?
- How is health affected by the dietary changes?
- What are the important drivers, barriers and measures for a more sustainable diet?
The Centre will develop an innovative, forward-looking and coordinated national programme for monitoring diet and exposure to environmental toxins to address these questions. The programme will be coordinated with input from collaborating institutes, national authorities and international actors, as well as corresponding initiatives in Europe (EIRENE and PARC).
The authorities need knowledge about the population's diet and exposure to environmental toxins to implement measures for a healthy and sustainable diet. We also need to gain a better understanding of how climate change and sustainability measures affect diet and health – both now and in the future. This requires a high level of expertise and appropriate methods.
NIPH can produce this knowledge because we have:
- national responsibility for monitoring the population's diet;
- the Norwegian Environmental Biobank to monitor the population's exposure to environmental toxins; and,
- health registers, population surveys and cohort studies that can provide new insight into the connection between diet, the environment and health outcomes.
Who is in the Centre?
The Centre for Sustainable Diets brings together researchers from NIPH's Divisions of Climate and Environmental Health and Mental and Physical Health who have internationally recognized expertise in diet, epidemiology, exposure, biomonitoring, toxicology, and risk assessment. Researchers from other parts of the Institute contribute with expertise on drinking water, breast milk and breastfeeding, migration health and infrastructure for health research. NIPH's Centre for the Evaluation of Public Health Measures will contribute to evaluating structural and population-oriented measures that can support behavioral change. NIPH's Centre for the Burden of Disease will further develop methodology for estimating the current burden of disease and projections for different climate scenarios, for both dietary factors and environmental toxins.
Centre themes and tasks
The Centre will make projections of how the Norwegian diet will change in the future – both due to climate and environmental changes, as well as planned and implemented sustainability measures. This includes projections of the intake of food, nutrients and unfavourable substances, as well as of subsequent health consequences. Monitoring data will be the basis for these calculations.
New advances in exposome research (defined as “everything we are exposed to throughout our lives”) provide a unique opportunity to study the interaction between nutrients and environmental toxins, and how changes in the composition of these could affect health.
A central part of the innovative work at the Centre will be to develop improved mathematical models of dietary exposure. We will also use dietary data to a greater extent than before to research the relations between dietary factors and health outcomes, including through linkage with data from national registers.
The Centre will collaborate with NIPH's Centre for the Burden of Disease to further develop methodology for estimating the current burden of disease and projections for different climate scenarios, both for dietary factors and environmental toxins.
The Centre also gathers expertise to enable risk-benefit assessments of changes in diet, which can provide precautionary knowledge about hitherto unknown health consequences of desired climate-adapted dietary changes.
The Centre will also collect data from vulnerable groups in the population that are often underrepresented in surveys, for example immigrants and low-income households.
We will acquire new knowledge about drivers and barriers for a transition to a healthier and more sustainable diet and examine the effect of measures to positively alter diet.
Food – from production to consumption – contributes to a third of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions, increasing climate change and reducing biodiversity. Changes towards a more sustainable diet are, therefore, necessary to reach climate goals. At the same time, an unhealthy diet is one of the most important factors that cause a loss of healthy life years, both globally and in Norway. In addition, around 25 percent of the global disease burden comes from environmental risk factors such as vector-borne diseases, climate change, pollution and exposure to environmental toxins.
The food we eat provides taste, joy and culture in addition to nutrition, but is also often the most important source of unfavourable substances.
A more plant-based diet is recommended both for health reasons and sustainability considerations. This could lead to a healthier diet but is conditional on the reduction in meat being replaced with healthy and safe plant-based foods. Lower intake of meat can result in lower intake of environmental toxins found in animal products, but also increased exposure to pesticides.
Climate change can also lead to altered levels of nutrients and environmental toxins in food. More rainfall and higher temperatures could lead to more mycotoxins in grain and greater leaching of heavy metals from the soil.
Drinking water is also part of diet. Access to clean water is threatened by climate and environmental changes. Going forward, we will experience more extreme weather, increasing the risk of drinking water contamination.
Sustainable diets should be affordable, healthy and available for everyone.
The employees in the Centre participate in several externally funded projects in which NIPH plays a prominent role.