Photo: National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark

Better methods for integrated assessment of food

Thursday 10 Apr 14


Morten Poulsen
Senior Researcher, Head of Research Group
DTU National Food Institute
+45 35 88 76 06

Quantitative methods for assessing food and estimating disease burden are significant for understanding the combined effect of hazardous and beneficial substances in food. In a PhD project at the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, existing quantitative methods have been further developed to make integrated assessment of food a useful tool.

Food is a source of several beneficial substances, e.g. fish contains vitamin D and iodine, which prevent disease in humans. However, food may also contain harzardous substances, e.g. bacteria and chemical contaminants, which may cause disease.

It is important to understand the total health effects of both hazardous and beneficial substances before stating whether a particular food is actually healthy or not. In his PhD project at the National Food Institute, Firew Lemma Berjia further developed existing methods for integrated assessment of food and estimation of disease burden.

Integrated assessment of food puts focus on three areas

The PhD project puts focus on three areas. First, an integrated assessment of hazardous and beneficial effects related to eating cold-smoked salmon was performed . The study shows that the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids outweigh the hazardous effects from disease bacteria. However, if the cold-smoked salmon is not stored correctly and handled properly, effects from disease bacteria may outweigh the beneficial effects of omega-3-fatty acids.

Second, emphasis was put on developing a method for finding the optimum intake of a certain food or food component, in this example vitamin D. The purpose of this type of assessment is to find the intake scenario which leads to the optimum state of health.

Third, various red meat cooking practices were studied and their quantitative significance in respect to burden of disease estimated. The study shows, amongst others, that barbecuing your meat instead of roasting it in the oven has a modest but measurable impact on the quality and number of your remaining life years.

Read more

Read Firew Lemma Berjia’s PhD thesis: Method development in risk-benefit assessment and burden of disease estimation of food (pdf).

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