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Risk perception and the metabolic syndrome: what are the views of European Consumers?


Leading academics will meet this week to explore the initial findings from research into the views of consumers around the metabolic syndrome and its perceived health risks.

The research is part of a €12.5m project entitled Lipgene, which is funded by the EU. The metabolic syndrome is the focus of the project; this disease is characterised by a number of strongly inter-related risk factors for cardiovascular disease including obesity, dyslipidemia, insulin-resistance and hypertension. The project is taking a multi-disciplinary approach to tackling this problem and includes aspects of nutrition, agro-food technology, and social and economic sciences.

The Lipgene project primarily focuses on the potential of modern agro-food technologies to manipulate the fatty acid profile of foods, such as milk, meat and rapeseed oil. It is also investigating the subsequent effects of these foods on an individual’s risk of the metabolic syndrome, taking account of how genetic variation may modify these effects. Consumers’ views of the risks of the metabolic syndrome, and the risks and benefits of using new agro-food technologies to produce foods, are being investigated as part of the consumer science work-package.

A potential hindrance to tackling this problem is that consumer awareness of the metabolic syndrome is low. As part of the Lipgene project research has taken place in 6 different EU countries to assess consumer attitudes to the use of new agro-food technologies and genetically modified foods, and is also investigating the relationship between our genes, diet and the metabolic syndrome. In the future it may be possible to tailor our diets based on our genotype to minimise the risk of developing certain diseases. Such cutting edge developments are exciting and have the potential to make a great difference to the consumers’ health as part of a healthy diet; yet, will have little impact if they are not fully understood or accepted.

The workshop in Lisbon will be the first opportunity to discuss the enlightening findings from this research.

Naomi Campbell | alfa
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