The Department of Biomedicine

BBB seminar: Alfred Halstensen

From ocean to health

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Alfred Halstensen
Institute of Medicine, University of Bergen

Research on marine nutrition has a long history in Bergen with many actors: the University of Bergen (UiB), the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES), the Norwegian Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture Research (FF), the Institute of Marine Research (IMR), the Bergen Health Trust – Haukeland University Hospital, and the industry. The new UiB study programme on nutrition claims for basic research, research-based teaching and the development of academic disciplines within the field. The Board for the nutrition programme (”Programstyret for ernæring”) was appointed by the University Board in 2004 to handle these challenges. In addition to research and education in the traditional university disciplines, the academic profile of the UiB has two major focuses: marine research and co-operation with developing countries. Thus nutrition research should also aim to join these two areas. The Norwegian Research Policy, which was launched by the Government in 2005, focuses on 4 thematic areas, 3 of which are: ocean, food and health. The Government plans to announce the structure of NOFIMA (“norsk fiskemat”) in the Revised National Budget 2007, including more than 400 employees.

The Nordic Council of Ministers announced last year the ”NordForsk's Nordic Centre of Excellence Programme on Food, Nutrition and Health”. Last week NordForsk announced the ”NordForsk centre of excellence for bioactive food compounds and prevention of life style diseases” (Mito-Health). The project leader is Professor Rolf K. Berge, Institute of Medicine, University of Bergen. In 2009 the nutritional research people in Bergen aim to apply for a “Centre for Research-based Innovation on Marine Bioprocessing and Health”, with the objective to: “Contribute to production of healthy products from underutilized marine resources through integrated research into novel nutritional ingredients and improved processing”.

One major reason for this high activity in research on nutrition is the increased focus on the health effects of nutrition, especially the beneficial effects of seafood. Marine unsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 seem to be essential for optimal cell function, and therefore are included in the function of the whole human body. Presently the brain and thus the mental function are of major interest. Nutrition & health are really on the agenda, now more than ever! Some strategic challenges will be discussed during the seminar together with some of the new results of health effects of improved nutrition. Within research on marine nutrition in Bergen anno 2007, it seems that the scientists of the different institutions above will be welded together in a crossover scientific constellation of top international class. The key to success seems to be the living communication and the mutual respect between scientists, the applied research clusters and the commercial launching.