On 19th-20th June 2023, the inaugural Eatwell Guide Forum was hosted at the Human Nutrition and Exercise Research Centre (HNERC) at Newcastle University. The event was funded by Rank Prize, following application from a project team of UK-based researchers. Dr. Oliver Shannon led the application as principal investigator, supported by co-investigators; Dr. Fiona Malcomson and Dr. Rebecca Townsend (of Newcastle University), Dr. Sarah Gregory (Edinburgh University), Dr. Jamie Matu and Dr. Alex Griffiths (both of Leeds Beckett University), Dr. Amy Jennings and Ms. Nicola Ward (both of Queen’s University Belfast).
This application followed previous work conducted by the project team, which investigated associations between adherence to the Eatwell Guide and outcomes of cardiometabolic and cognitive health, including neuroimaging measures in the PREVENT Dementia cohort. This work was funded by the NuBrain Consortium led by Prof. Emma Stevenson, and contributes toward the limited number of studies which evaluates adherence to recommendations within the Eatwell Guide in relation to health outcomes. Acknowledging this, the project team believed it would be invaluable to host an event which aimed to both consolidate existing knowledge, and set the agenda for future work, surrounding the Eatwell Guide and outcomes of human and planetary health.
The Forum was attended by twenty-one researchers/professionals who travelled to Newcastle-upon-Tyne by train, plane, and van, from across all corners of the UK. A further three individuals attended the event virtually, including colleagues from international locations.
The event kicked off with an introduction to the Forum from the organising committee, who welcomed attendees and set out the agenda for the day. Prof. Louis Levy then gave an engaging keynote talk about the evolution of the Eatwell Guide and the extensive research which underpinned this process, spanning from idea conception to testing and validation of the tool. After a much-needed coffee-break (some attendees had 3am starts!), the first original research session began. This session explored how adherence to the Eatwell guide could impact population health, including outcomes of mortality (Dr. Keren Papier), adiposity (Dr. Nicola Best) cognitive function/brain health (Dr. Sarah Gregory) and risk of falls (Ms. Chloe French).
Following a plentiful lunch break packed with networking and further introductions, the second session began. This session was angled toward exploring the impact of the Eatwell Guide on planetary health. Dr. Pauline Scheelbeek highlighted the potentially beneficial influence of the Eatwell Guide on greenhouse gas emissions, and Dr. Curie Kim reviewed the evidence surrounding the Eat-Lancet Reference Diet (a diet developed to promote environmental sustainability) in relation to cognitive function. After further discussions and an afternoon break, the third and final session of the day commenced. Prof. Bertha Ochieng and Fareeha Jay presented the work they have each undertaken to culturally adapt the Eatwell Guide, in order to improve representation across various communities living within the UK. This included the co-creation of an African Heritage Eatwell Guide and the development of a South Asian Eatwell Guide. The first day of the Forum ended with a stimulating audience discussion surrounding the past, present, and future opportunities in relation to the Eatwell Guide. Event attendees then had a taste of the Newcastle dining scene to complete the first day of the Forum and enjoyed further networking opportunities.
The second day of the Forum opened with a recap of day one from the organising committee, followed by commencement of the fourth original research session. Presenters discussed the potential application of the Eatwell Guide within future clinical trials (Dr. Amy Jennings) and outlined the development of new methods to determine adherence toward recommendations within clinical and public health settings (Ms. Kaydee Shepherd).
Event attendees then participated in a world café-style activity to highlight gaps in current knowledge and outline future opportunities for further research. Discussions were had about the overall paucity of research which investigates adherence to the Eatwell Guide, in relation to both human and planetary health outcomes, especially within specific sub-group populations at increased risk of diet-related diseases. Attendees also commented on the methods to assess the level of implementation of the Eatwell Guide at population-level, including examination of understanding among both the public and healthcare professionals. Following conclusion of the activity, the Forum ended with a general discussion surrounding key principles to consider when conducting future research. The importance of input from patient and public involvement (PPI) panels was highlighted, to promote acceptability, understanding and enhance usability of the Eatwell Guide. Ultimately, the need to develop cross-disciplinary relationships which span outside of academia, including relevant governmental departments and industry partners (e.g., consumer data panels) was acknowledged.
Overall, the event was a great success and helped many to develop new connections and acted as a catalyst for the initiation of novel and exciting ideas surrounding the Eatwell Guide. The event was also live scribed by Beka Haigh, who expertly sketched the final graphic shown below to neatly summarise the content of the Forum. Finally, the organising committee and event attendees intend to write a formal summary of the Forum, for submission to the Nutrition Bulletin – so keep an eye out for this!