The value of food: Savoir vivre = savoir manger

Paula Irene Lenoir-Wijnkoop

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


When the concept of functional food was introduced at the end of last century, food manufacturers started to add health claims to their advertising messages, with the aim of influencing the purchasing behaviour of consumers. To protect citizens against misleading or confusing information, new legislative provisions were introduced and imposed formal approval of nutritional health claims. Food companies faced the challenge with confidence, however in many cases their dossiers did not meet the required scientific level. At the same time pharmaceutical industries seized the opportunity to expand their market segments with relatively little effort, as a simple notification procedure is sufficient for marketing vitamin preparations and dietary supplements. From a nutritional point of view, this focus on health effects of specific foods and dietary supplements risks to push into the background the basic principle that a balanced diet allows healthy people to adequately meet their daily nutritional needs. This concern inspired the creation of a new discipline named Nutrition Economics, aiming to better account for the influence of eating patterns on disease burden and on societal and individual socio-economic consequences of insufficient or unbalanced food intake. Since its introduction in 2011, Nutrition Economics has gradually gained recognition as shown by an analysis of the scientific literature covering the period January 2012-December 2021. The continuously increasing prevalence of food-related chronic conditions threatens the sustainability of health systems, the prosperity of societies and the well-being of individual citizens. We need to make a decisive reversal in preventive public health programs. The integration of Citizen Science in the field of Nutrition Economics offers a new way forward for: - strengthening the relevance of collected nutrition-health data in real-life situations - getting a better insight in the most pertinent levers for successful healthy food promotion - narrowing the know-to-do gap between health policies, population health and the health inequalities that hamper the implementation of successful policies. A structured collaboration between scientific researchers, volunteers from the general public and other stakeholders, offers an unparalleled opportunity to better understand the subjective factors that play a key role in eating behaviour. This approach will be adapted to the complexity of nutritional research, characterized by interactions between diet, lifestyle and multiple other factors in daily life. In addition, active participation of citizen volunteers in such research projects will contribute to raising a better awareness about the crucial importance of daily food for personal well-being. This will enhance the willingness to change behaviour in a more sustainable way and, on the longer term, this will not only benefit healthcare resources, but also socio-economic conditions and the wellbeing of the population at large. Furthermore, increased understanding of nutritional issues among laypersons will gradually offer protection against internet misinformation and make people less receptive to unsubstantiated nutritional blog posts and related social media communication. We cannot afford to continue "eating up" our health, resulting in an excessive (but avoidable) pressure on scarce healthcare resources. Nutritional literacy is the beginning of a healthier and socially more equitable world.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Garssen, Johan, Primary supervisor
  • Claassen, Eric, Supervisor, External person
Award date26 Sept 2022
Place of PublicationUtrecht
Print ISBNs978-94-6361-729-1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2022


  • Nutrition research
  • nutrition economics
  • citizen science
  • chronic diseases
  • healthcare resources
  • daily diet
  • behaviour change
  • eating patterns
  • public health


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