Prevention of obesity and diabetes through diet and exercise – University of Copenhagen

Important breakthroughs in the prevention of obesity and diabetes through diet and exercise

Health is not a matter of combatting a single problem with a single solution. To prevent and combat the serious lifestyle diseases that pose a threat to both the health of the individual and the economy, the issues faced need to be approached from many angles. Academics in the University of Copenhagen's well established research environments are involved in interdisciplinary studies designed to improve public health. Below are some examples of some of the research that makes up the many pieces of the huge health jigsaw.   

Fødevarer med lavt glykæmisk indeksMore protein and fewer carbohydrates to prevent obesity

The European project 'Diogene' has shown that a diet with more protein and fewer carbohydrates prevents weight gain. The same applies to diets based on slowly metabolised carbohydrates (i.e. with a low glycemic index). The beneficial effect of protein is seen in both adults and children.

The beneficial effect of exercise

We continue to learn more about the biological and genetic mechanisms underlying the beneficial effect of exercise and a healthy diet. Recent studies have shown that 30 minutes of exercise a day has the same beneficial effect as 60 minutes.

Familie ved middagsbordetFood and meals are influenced by health considerations and habits

Health and weight considerations are part of many people's everyday lives, but in practice our habits are to a large extent also influenced by other concerns such as the practical circumstances, social conventions and the desire to create and maintain social relationships. For example, there are large variations in how obesity is experienced and handled by men and women and by the well- and poorly educated.

Billedet viser et stetoskop og et hjerteCost-effective prevention

Prevention is important for improving public health. Research into prevention campaigns shows what works best, costs least and reaches the parts of the population in most need of it. Structural solutions such as the prices of tobacco, alcohol and food, traffic systems that promote physical activity and reduce air pollution and initiatives that reduce stress at work, have proven to be the most cost-effective. Structural prevention measures also reduce social inequalities in health care.

Reklamer på vej ind af brevsprække i dørHuge potential in regulation of the obesogene environment

How food companies market and provide information about their products is part of what is collectively known as the obesogene environment (the obesity-generating environment). Research into economic, legal and political factors influencing the obesogene environment indicates a need for closer co-ordination of different policies in this area. The research also shows that there is considerable potential for making regulation in this area more effective.

Sandwich med pengesedlerTaxes on food as a tool to change people's behaviour

Previous analyses have shown that economic instruments such as food taxes and food subsidies can be used to encourage consumers to buy more healthy (or less unhealthy) foods. The findings from these studies are now supported by recent, as yet unpublished, analyses of Danish consumers' purchasing behaviour after the introduction of the so-called 'fat tax' in October 2011.

Unintended effects of new methods of promoting good health

It is essential that policies and regulations ensure citizens' rights to health but do not, at the same time, violate fundamental rights to privacy and personal freedom. New methods of health promotion, such as 'nudging', and the concept of lifestyle diseases can have unintended harmful effects: restricting people's freedom, manipulating, stigmatising and causing feelings of guilt.

Kvinde sidder under træ i terapihaven Nacardia.Nature’s impact on health and well-being

Since 1976, researchers have regularly conducted studies of Danish preferences and how the Danes interact with nature. A recent area into which research has been conducted is nature- and garden-based therapy. The University of Copenhagen has set up the therapy garden Nacadia, which acts as 'infrastructure' for research into nature-based stress therapy. A group of Danish soldiers, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, took part in a 10-week course in the garden. Nature's impact on the soldiers' symptoms, their relationships and ability to handle their life situations were analysed using qualitative measurement tools. The soldiers were followed from the start of the process until six months after they completed the course. The project is not yet complete, but the feedback from the participants has been positive.