Three Years of Pea Noodles and Canola Oil – What is the Effect?

Plenty of plant proteins, healthy fats and fiber – for three years Michael Nowak * followed a plant-based dietary pattern and came for regular tests to the Human Study Center of DIfE, a DZD partner. As the first study participant in the NutriAct Nutritional Intervention Study, the 68-year-old has now completed the extensive series of examinations. The objective of the NutriAct Study is to determine whether people over the age of 50 can improve their health in the long term by changing their diet.

The NutriAct Study investigates whether and how people in the second half of life can influence their health through a particular diet. Source: Ina Schoenenburg/DIfE

NutriAct, one of the four Germany-wide competence clusters of nutrition research, investigates how dietary behavior influences the health of people over age 50. As part of this cluster, the team of scientists led by Professor Andreas F. H. Pfeiffer and Dr. Christiana Gerbracht of the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DIfE) and Professor Knut Mai of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin are conducting the NutriAct nutrition study to investigate the effect of a specific dietary pattern on age-related diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. For this purpose, the researchers will collect a wide variety of data from a total of 500 people by spring 2021. "I am really pleased that the study has gone so smoothly so far and that our dietary recommendations have been implemented so successfully. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all participants once again for their outstanding commitment," said Gerbracht, research associate at the Human Study Center at DIfE.

Study design
Initially, the participants are randomly assigned to one of two groups: one group follows a high-fiber, mainly plant-based high-fat and protein-rich diet according to the NutriAct pattern. The other group follows a diet according to the currently valid recommendations of the German Nutrition Society. During the current three-year diet change, the participants receive regular nutritional advice, recipes and newly developed foods such as protein rolls and protein flakes. "The first interim analyses already show that the special NutriAct foods are actually incorporated into the everyday lives of the participants. Now we are very curious to see what insights the first evaluations will bring," said Project Leader Mai.

The examinations are carried out at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and at DIfE. There are a total of five examination dates on which the following aspects, among others, are repeatedly tested:

  • Body composition
  • Cognition
  • Dietary behavior
  • Cardiovascular system

In addition, blood, urine and stool samples are collected from all participants for analysis of different biomarkers.

Michael Nowak* had his last examination at the end of July. His conclusion: "Today I eat less, am more mindful of what I eat and above all, I know what I am eating". He wants to maintain the NutriAct diet in any case, not least because "the improved blood glucose levels show that it has been worth it".

What influence does the partner have?
The NutriAct Nutritional Intervention Study is promising: there are many indications that a diet rich in unsaturated fatty acids, plant proteins and fiber promotes healthy aging. But even if the findings lead to optimized recommendations in the future, the problem of implementation remains. Even if it is known what is beneficial to health, it is often difficult to implement dietary recommendations in the long term. This is why the NutriAct Family Study was launched. The study team led by Dr. Manuela Bergmann wants to find out whether and how dietary behavior can be changed even in middle age, influenced by the partner. Web-based questionnaires were developed for this purpose, which provide information on dietary behavior, family (relationships) and psychological aspects, among other things. So far, the researchers have recruited 1,000 participants and are seeking to recruit 2,000 further participants in the study.

* The name was changed out of consideration for the privacy of the study participant.


NutriAct Family Study: Who can participate?
Three members of a family between the ages of 50 and 70 who are willing to complete online questionnaires conveniently from home on their PC can participate: this means in addition to the couple, at least one brother or sister of one or the other partner. People interested in participating are invited to contact the NutriAct study team at any time by e-mail or telephone at familienstudie(at) / +49(0)33200 88 2530.


Background Information:
What is NutriAct and what is it about?
The competence cluster Nutritional Intervention for Healthy Aging: Food Patterns, Behavior and Products (NutriAct) is investigating the dietary behavior of the population between the ages of 50 and 70 in six projects, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). For this purpose, a network of various disciplines – ranging from nutrition science, food chemistry and technology to medicine and the humanities and social sciences – as well as scientific institutions work closely together with representatives of the food industry.
The aim of the NutriAct research network is to improve the nutrition and health situation of the "50 +" population group. To this end, age-oriented dietary recommendations, new food products and strategies suitable for everyday use are being developed in order to help people stay fit and healthy into old age. []

German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DIfE)
DIfE is a member of the Leibniz Association. It investigates the causes of nutrition-associated diseases in order to develop new strategies for prevention, treatment and dietary recommendations. Its research interests include the causes and consequences of the metabolic syndrome, a combination of obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), insulin resistance and lipid metabolism disorder, the role of nutrition for healthy aging and the biological bases of food choices and dietary behavior. DIfE is also a partner of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), which has been funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) since 2009. [ /]