Brussels, 31 Jan 2005
It is estimated that obesity and associated co-morbidities directly account for around five per cent of European health budgets, and although essentially a simple energy imbalance problem, obesity is a complex condition.
While scientists agree that susceptibility to obesity is largely determined by genetic factors, the current epidemic is clearly influenced by adverse lifestyle factors such as poor diet and a lack of exercise. According to experts, given our genetic background it is essentially infeasible for humans to effectively regulate their food intake under present conditions.
In 2002 the EU Council of Ministers issued an urgent call for action to fight the spread of obesity across Europe, especially among children, and in response, one initiative announced by the Commission is the funding of the 14.5 million euro DiOGenes (diet, obesity and genes) Integrated Project.
The project gathers 30 organisations with a wide range of expertise from 15 European countries. Together, their task will be to carry out the most comprehensive study yet of dietary components and the genetic and behavioural factors influencing weight gain.
The primary focus of DiOGenes will be an investigation of the role of the carbohydrate and high dietary protein content in enhancing satiety, or the feeling of being full. A DNA bank of over 13,000 individuals will form the basis of initial studies, and further analyses will include a long-term dietary intervention study in eight European countries encompassing whole families with both obese and normal weight members.
These and other novel approaches should ultimately enable the DiOGenes consortium to develop a method of predicting an individual's weight change in response to different dietary nutrients, which in turn should lead to personalised diet-based treatments.
Food technology studies will also form an integral part of the project. Researchers hope to be able to develop foods that score highly in terms of consumer preference, but which also limit intake through enhanced satiety signals. Finally, demonstration projects will show how individualised weight management approaches can work in practice to reduce the risk of weight gain or regain.
Dr Jörg Hager, chief scientific officer of French DiOGenes partner IntegraGen SA, says: 'Obesity is a health issue of increasing concern for Western societies. IntegraGen has already established a long heritage of ground-breaking work in the field of obesity genetics, having already identified five genes associated with this condition. We are looking forward to bringing our expertise to this innovative project.'
The DiOGenes Integrated Project is funded under the Food quality and safety priority of the EU Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
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