"What should Europeans eat?" at ESOF 2012 in Dublin

15 June 2012

The Academy of Finland will organise a scientific session at the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) 2012 in Dublin on Saturday, 14 July 2012. The Academy's session, with a discussion on nutrition, includes researchers Toni Steer from the UK, Iris Erlund and Mikael Fogelholm from Finland, and Demosthenes B. Panagiotakos from Greece.

The international assessment panel, led by Professor Patrick Cunningham, chose some 100 sessions to the final ESOF programme. ESOF 2012 specifically addresses the great challenges of humankind, for example energy, climate change, nutrition and health.

ESOF is Europe's largest science event. The goal is to inform the public of the latest scientific and technological achievements, to promote science-society interactions, and increase people's interest in science.

Registration for the event is currently open. ESOF 2012 is expected to attract several thousand participants from around the world. The target groups are researchers, students, policy and business decision-makers, as well as science journalists.

For more information about the programme and registration, please visit

Session: What should Europeans eat?

From a food-cultural viewpoint, Europe is far away from being a homogenous area. Some regions in Europe (e.g. the Mediterranean countries) have really long cultural traditions, and some are much younger (e.g. the Nordic countries). National and regional diets may be approached from a cultural viewpoint, but diet is also an essential part of our health. Besides having really strong and cultural roots, the Mediterranean diet has also repeatedly been connected to good health. Long-term follow-up studies (cohort studies) have, for instance, shown that following a diet that at least resembles a Mediterranean diet (high intake of fruit and vegetables, grain products, fish, and olive oil, and low intake of animal fats) is associated with lower total and cardiovascular mortality, and also with a lower incidence of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. Given the emerging epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes, in particular, the traditional Mediterranean dietary patterns have clear public health implications.

Other European regions are clearly less famous for their diets. However, some areas could perhaps challenge the Mediterranean diet. The Nordic countries have some dietary specialties with potentially great health effects: wild berries (e.g. blueberries, lingonberries and cranberries), rye and rapeseed oil.

This session consists of three introductory presentations from three different European regions: the Mediterranean, the Nordic countries and the UK. Each presentation is planned as a starting point for discussions with the audience. Some pertinent questions will be discussed immediately after the presentations and a longer interactive discussion with the audience will follow at the end of the session. The entire session will address the following questions: 1) What and how are we eating in different parts of Europe?; 2) What are the regional strengths and weaknesses regarding health effects?; and 3) Where do Northern, Western and Southern Europe meet – do we have a common intersection for improved diet and health in Europe?


Iris Erlund received her PhD in Food Science (Nutrition) from the University of Helsinki, Finland in 2002. Currently, she works as a group leader at the Department of Chronic Disease Prevention at the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki. Her main research interests are bioavailability of dietary factors, nutritional epidemiology and dietary intervention studies. At the moment, Dr Erlund's main research project, funded by the Academy of Finland, investigates the health effects of a Nordic diet rich in plant-based foods and fish. She actively collaborates with research groups in other Nordic countries and Germany. She has authored 19 publications in peer-reviewed journals and a number of domestic articles and reports. She has good experience in teaching and lecturing, and she has been an invited speaker at a number of international conferences and seminars. She has also been active in disseminating research findings in the field of nutrition to the general public through popular media (television, radio, newspapers, magazines and internet).

Dr Toni Steer is a senior public health nutritionist at the Medical Research Council, Human Nutrition Research unit (HNR) in Cambridge, UK. She has nine years' experience in public health nutrition and is currently responsible for managing a team at HNR that works on UK national nutrition surveys. Notably, she oversees scientific aspects of the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey funded by the Department of Health. Prior to joining HNR, Toni worked in public health nutrition in the UK National Health Service. She was involved in setting up and running weight management programmes for children and overseeing the delivery of the national child measurement programme at a county level. She gained her PhD in 2003 from Reading University and her interests are in public health nutrition, dietary assessment and child nutrition.

Mikael Fogelholm received his PhD in Food Science (Nutrition) from the University of Helsinki in 1992. After spending his postdoctoral year at the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands, he has worked as Senior Researcher at the UKK Institute for Health Promotion and Research in Tampere, Finland (1994–1998), Director of Research and Development at the University of Helsinki, Palmenia Centre for Research and Continuing Education (1999–2001), Director for the UKK Institute (2001–2007), and Director of the Health Research Unit at the Academy of Finland (2007–2011). In August 2011, Fogelholm was appointed as Professor in Nutrition at the University of Helsinki. His main research interests combine diet, physical activity and obesity. He has published some 120 original research publications, reviews and editorials. In addition, he has published several textbook chapters and textbooks in Finnish and English. He is a member of several national and international experts groups, including the Scientific Advisory Group of Joint Programming “Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life” and the working group for the 2012 Nordic Nutrition Recommendations.

Demosthenes B. Panagiotakos (PhD in MedSc 2002) is an Associate Professor in Biostatistics – Epidemiology of Human Nutrition at the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece. At present, he is also a Board Member of the National Council on Public Health/Ministry of Health, and a Board Member of the Scientific Council of the Hellenic Food Authority, Greece. His research interests focus on risk modelling, multivariate analysis, public health and cardiovascular and nutritional epidemiology. He has authored 420 publications in peer-reviewed journals. Dr Panagiotakos holds fellowships at the American College of Epidemiology, the Royal Society of Public Health and the European Society of Cardiology. He has received two Young Investigators’ International Awards. He is  Editor-in-Chief of the Hellenic Journal of Nutrition & Dietetics and Cardiovascular Epidemiology (in Greek), and editor for seven international journals. Dr Panagiotakos has given more than 100 lectures (mainly on Mediterranean diet and health) in many countries around the world.

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