AFH Research Strategy

The starting point is AFH’s vision “Discovering health effects of dairy and dairy ingredients”. The goal is to uncover health effects of dairy products and dairy ingredients to define and strengthen their position in a healthy and sustainable diet. To achieve this, a deeper understanding of the health effects of dairy products and ingredients is needed, both alone and in combination with other food constituents.

AFH supports WHO’s definition of healthy sustainable diets as being dietary patterns that support health and have minimal environmental impact. Furthermore, a sustainable healthy diet needs to be affordable, culturally acceptable, accessible, and protect biodiversity. Thus, AFH seeks to understand the health effects of dairy products and ingredients in recommended diets throughout the world. This embraces the use of dairy products and ingredients in plant-rich or local diets, as well as studies addressing nutrition for specific consumer groups, such as infants/toddlers, elderly, and vulnerable individuals. AFH address health as an integrated part of sustainability and welcomes projects focusing on socio-economic heath aspects of dairy’s role in sustainable diets.

AFH emphasizes multidisciplinary research approaches aimed to understand how the physical and chemical properties of foods, as well as food processing, affects the health effects of the foods. This is emphasized since dairy products and ingredients function as both individual components and as part of food matrices, which structure affect digestion and nutrient uptake kinetics. Also, consumer science elucidating how choice and convenience can drive healthy diets and help consumers stay healthy in times of diet transition is welcomed. It is not a requirement that all disciplines are present in every single project. However, it should always be considered, which benefits other fields might add to the project outcome.

Within this framework, AFH strives to promote research within the following selected areas:

  • Metabolic health with emphasis on cause-effect relations between dairy and health related outcomes. This includes metabolic responses in different consumer groups to enable targeted nutritional strategies that for example regulate infant growth, increase satiety, and prevent the development of obesity and non-communicable diseases.
  • Gastro-intestinal health with emphasis on understanding the role of dairy in development and maintenance of a healthy gut function. This includes the role of the gut microbiota and metabolome in regulation of host metabolism and health, as well as food digestion and absorption of macro- and micronutrients, and how these factors affect health outcomes.
  • Healthy growth and development with emphasis on understanding the role of dairy on bone, muscle, and brain throughout life. This includes infant growth, optimized bone and muscle function, and prevention/remedy of muscle atrophy and osteoporosis. It also includes nutritional strategies to support the development of the brain and to prevent cognitive decline during ageing.
  • Nutritional assessment with emphasis on development of indexes reflecting the nutritional quality and health properties of foods. This includes further refinement of nutrition indexes to include parameters such as health effects, naturalness vs. fortification, food processing and nutrient quality, as well as methods enabling comparison between food products.
  • Nourishing abilities of dairy products and ingredients. Based in milk’s natural design aiming at nourishing the offspring, underlying mechanisms supporting this function are of interest. The chemical, structural and physical basis for this function and how food processing affects this ability to deliver nutrients and health is of particular interest. Additionally, these design aspects can be put in perspective by those of other foods and may thus provide clues to future food design.

Regarding study methodologies, the full range from in vitro over in vivo models to human research studies are welcomed depending on the purpose. Studies aiming at providing mechanistic insights into health effects are highly warranted. For human studies both interventions and observational studies are welcomed. Also existing cohorts should be considered as well as improving such by use of biomarkers of food intake or investigations in stratified subgroups. Studies building on already ongoing AFH projects, e.g. further exploiting experimental intervention products, biological samples or study groups are positively considered. If animal models of human diseases or conditions are applied, it should be explained why such experiments are of specific interest, and it should be considered if the findings are potentially translatable to humans and to the general population.

AFH does not support:

  • Projects directly encompassing specific product and process development
  • Individual research chairs/professorships
  • Major equipment investments
  • Non-dairy ingredient testing