Research Sections - Groups

Nutrition and Metabolism -  Dietary Exposure Assessment Group

Current Research Topics:

The Dietary Exposure Assessment Group (DEX) conducts research projects in the following areas

Global nutrition surveillance implementation

An IARC-WHO Global Nutrition Surveillance initiative has recently been launched with the aim of collecting standardized dietary data worldwide (in 25 countries) using the DEX methodologies, to support dietary surveillance, research, and prevention of cancer and other noncommunicable diseases worldwide. Building on its successful implementation in Europe and strong international networks, this initiative aims to pilot its expansion in two to four countries in the other WHO regions worldwide.

The creation of a European GloboDiet consortium, including seven countries (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Malta, the Netherlands, and Switzerland), has been initiated as the European branch of this Global Nutrition Surveillance initiative. The main aim of this consortium is to create the legal and managerial framework to use, provide, and analyse the first comparable food consumption data available worldwide, as the proof of principle of the Global Nutrition Surveillance initiative.

Piloting is in progress in Latin America (Brazil and Mexico) and Asia (the Republic of Korea). In Africa, an in-depth inventory of the methodological and logistic situation (ASPADAM project, in 22 countries) was performed as a prerequisite to producing a road map for the African-GloboDiet surveillance branch (Pisa et al., 2014).

Development of international dietary methodologies and (web) infrastructures

Through different European Union projects (EuroDISH, PANCAKE, EMP-PANEU, JPI-DEDIPAC, BBMRI-LPC), DEX is pursuing the development and implementation of a comprehensive e-research infrastructure to support the dissemination, maintenance, data access, sharing, and (pooled) analyses of the GloboDiet data across participating countries. A strong information technology network involving academics, centres of excellence, and key stakeholders supports the development and implementation of the research infrastructure and its integration with other complementary research infrastructures such as the EuroFIR eSearch facility, a European food concentration database. In addition, e-training facilities have been successfully pilot-tested as an alternative to traditional face-to-face trainings.

To address specific methodological requirements to collect dietary information from children, a GloboDiet data entry version using food diaries, but still compatible with the 24-Hour Dietary Recall GloboDiet software, was developed.

To develop new nutritional research areas, the DEX standardized European Nutrient Database (ENDB) has been enriched with several new nutrients and/or biological components (methyl group donors: folate, choline, betaine, and methionine; polyphenols; plant sterols; and vitamin K).

Targeted research to better measure and understand dietary exposure and the nutrition transition and their associations with cancer and other intermediate diseases, including obesity

DEX is also involved in projects studying the role of diet and nutritional biomarkers in relation to cancer (the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition [EPIC] project) and other chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes (the EPIC-PANACEA, INTERACT projects). Holistic measures of dietary exposures through more diet-biomarker integrated and multivariate approaches, specifically nutrient patterns by means of principal component analysis and the treelet transform — an alternative method to derive dietary patterns that produces sparse factors in combination with a cluster tree to visualize related groups of foods/nutrients — have been implemented and related to colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and weight change.

Furthermore, targeted projects have been initiated on potential health impacts of the consumption of highly processed foods and the main contributors to the nutrition transition, and on health risks of vulnerable population groups, such as children, adolescents, and obese people. This work is being performed in collaboration with other researchers within and outside IARC.

Pisa PT, Landais E, Margetts B, Vorster HH, Friedenreich CM, Huybrechts I, et al. (2014). Inventory on the dietary assessment tools available and needed in Africa: a prerequisite for setting up a common methodological research infrastructure for nutritional surveillance, research and prevention of diet-related non-communicable diseases. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr.