Obesity research towards 2020 - The Danish perspectives

The prevalence of obesity is high and increasing in Europe and worldwide. The scale of the challenge posed by the obesity epidemic calls for collaboration across borders, disciplines, and institutions. A Danish consultation process has identified key research challenges, opportunities and priorities for the future Danish and European research.

Purpose of the Danish consultation process

To combat the increasing challenge of obesity, a Danish consultation process was initiated in the spring 2011. The purpose of the consultation process was to identify key research challenges, opportunities and priorities for Denmark and Europe in the field of obesity research in this decade, by mobilizing the strong Danish research initiatives and groups in the field of obesity and related research areas.

The ambition of the process was to explore and illustrate how the challenge of obesity can be met by cross-disciplinary research approaches in close collaboration between scientists and stakeholders; and how investment in obesity research will pave the way for societal and industrial innovation. The consultation process addressed the full specter of health promotion, prevention, diagnostics and treatment in the field of obesity.

Outcome of the Danish consultation process

The Danish consultation process has resulted in two documents - a report with a broad range of research ideas, based on inputs from leading researchers in multiple disciplines and a summary document that sums up the process and the main priorities. Both documents can be downloaded in the right column of this page. 

Key conclusions from the Danish input on obesity research towards 2020

Obesity research for the next century should pave the way for:

  • Sustainable messages on healthy choices and complementary technologies and approaches to support the consumer.
  • Healthy food products and novel concepts for physical activity which are accepted, attractive and chosen by the consumers.
  • Early diagnostic and target intervention for individuals prone to develop obesity and related diseases.
  • Ways to avoid stigmatization and counterproductive reactions of regulations, recommendations, and interventions aiming at tackling obesity.
  • Tailor-made pharmaceutical treatment regimes and novel drugs, with minimal adverse effects.
  • Platforms for monitoring and predicting obesity, supporting and follow implementation, prevention and treatment actions.

Major potentials for investments in obesity research:

  • Markers of susceptibility obesity-related diseases, refining phenotypic characterization and reclassification of obesity.
  • Addressing adverse effects and dilemmas in classifying ’high risk’ individuals towards implementing a ‘tailor-made’ approach.
  • Mapping social and societal factors complicating the healthy lifestyles and develop novel real life interventions and exploring potentials of ICT in optimizing interventions from individual through population level.
  • Diet composition and dietary recommendations supported by novel food products.
  • Follow-up of existing ageing European cohort incl. updated phenotyping, social epidemiology data and biological samples
  • Novel interdisciplinary approaches to addressing the role of the brain in obesity, including gut- brain signalling, response to physical activity, genetic factors and candidate drug targets.
  • Animal models with high translational potential in terms of genetics, physiology, behaviour, obesity and co-morbidities.

The process 

The report was created by bringing together more than 50 representatives of the Danish research groups involved in obesity research at a workshop hosted by The University of Copenhagen in August 2011.

The workshop was further attended by the leaders of the larger German research initiatives addressing obesity and by Professor Jean-Michel Oppert, President of EASO (the European Association for the Study of Obesity), MEP Christel Schaldemose the European Parliament, the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation, the Capital Region of Denmark and the Deans of the faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

The Danish consultation process was followed up by a workshop in Germany in December 2011 and a strategic conference in Brussels early 2012. The conference will be convened by EASO and hosted by DG Research.

These initiatives are to provide expert recommendations for the European Commission on the importance and exact role of obesity related research for the future. The basis for further bi-lateral synergies and liaison between the Danish and German research initiatives on obesity are further explored and strengthened.

See description of the full process