Research in focus

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PAN Sweden addresses the challanges to achieve our vision by an interdisciplinary approach in identifying a number of need-to-know scientific focus areas.

The increase of plant-based protein-containing food products, as complements or even substitutes for meat, are important to achieve related sustainability goals of the Agenda 2030. The health and wellbeing research centre PAN Sweden have identified a number of major challenges that initially will be addressed:

- the need to shift our diet from animal-based proteins towards more plant-based proteins should off cause, in addition to a sustainability perspective, also have beneficial effects on consumers’ health. Although there is a general belief that plant-based protein-containing food products are health-promoting in comparison to meat, this is not well scientifically proven and is biased by the fact that people consuming these products generally have a higher intake of dietary fibre and a healthier lifestyle. This unproven health benefit threatens consumer trust in sustainable and healthy diets and hampers public health authorities’ support. PAN aims to increase the scientific knowledge regarding such possible health-promoting effects in order to facilitate consumer’s preferred food choices.

- unprocessed plant-based proteins may contain antinutrients that inhibit the uptake of other important nutrients. They also have a low bioavailability, diminishing anabolic and growth-promoting properties, as well as enabling protein fermentation in the large intestine. The latter may result in both negative as well as positive health effects. Without processing, most of these plant-based proteins have an inferior bioavailability compared to meat, which is often neglected in nutritional calculations and recommendations. This is even more important during certain phases of life, such as adolescence, pregnancy and lactation, and during older age where dietary intake and requirements are not easily met. PAN aims to deepen knowledge on how the human body handles plant-based proteins and its impact on health and well-being. This is a cornerstone to an evidence-based change of our diet that is beneficial to both our planet as well as our health.

- there is a need to create a sustainable and resource-effective transformation in the entire plant-based protein food chain, from soil to consumer. Currently, most of the plant-based proteins used in Swedish food products are based on imported protein sources such as soya. Legumes are a well-known source of these proteins, although the majority of Swedish production is used as feed. The transition to production for human foods needs to be strongly supported by knowledge on which raw products, isolates and concentrates, and which processing applications have the highest potential in terms of health advantages, taste and consumer preference. PAN will contribute to our collective knowledge on how to produce these healthy and attractive plant-based products to enable a fast and effective transition to sustainable and resource-effective living.

- an effective transition towards more plant-based food needs research that bridges the traditional gap between food, nutritional and social sciences. This will provide industry as well as the public sector with validated tools and methods to support the production and consumption of the most sustainable, healthy, and tasty food products. It is also crucial to enhance the integration of fundamental and need-driven research towards innovation and societal impact. Achieving this ambition will put Sweden well ahead of its competitors and build a durable basis for profitability while also improving public health through the concept of “precision nutrition”. The ambition of PAN is to address these challenges by reinforcing and further developing cross-disciplinary and inter-sectoral collaboration between several Swedish universities, RISE, and Swedish industrial and public sector partners, coordinated by Örebro University.

In order to address these questions, PAN Sweden has organized its research activities into several predefined research areas. For each of these areas we have combined the scientific competence of our academic partners with the knowhow and accumulated experiences of our industrial and public sector partners.