We all heard our mothers say it. "Eat everything up! No, not just the pasta and the sausage. The vitamins too. You have to eat well if you want to stay healthy." "Yes, Mother. Thank you, Mother." It was all so black-and-white. But when we ask Professor Schols, we hear about the many shades of gray.
Eating, drinking and health are subjects that concern us all.
"There are two parallel developments in our society that reinforce each other. First of all, young children have a greatly increased risk of sickness resulting from obesity. But on top of this—particularly in the rapidly growing group of older patients—there is an increasing burden of disease due to a loss of muscle mass and the resulting ability to function. Tackling eating habits and food quality as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle is the path that we must take if we want to break this trend."
That’s Annemie Schols’ message. "If you eat well and get enough exercise you’ll be well.’ Annemie is professor of Nutrition and Metabolism in Chronic Disorders at Maastricht University. More specifically, she is professor of Nutrition, Metabolism, Body Composition and Skeletal Muscle—quite a mouthful in itself.
She has 283 publications to her name and her work has been cited 16,500 times. She is also the director of the NUTRIM Research School at the Maastricht University Medical Center and project leader of the Limburg Knowledge Axis program Eatwell.
Eat Well, Feel Well
Annemie Schols is one of a kind—a waterfall of experience and a stimulator of ideas and initiatives. From time to time she falls silent to see if I'm still following her, then she continues on her high-speed track—energetic, enthusiastic and positive.
In fact, the idea is as simple as 'eat well, feel well; eat unhealthily, feel unhealthy'. And the consequences may even extend to legal areas, for instance, in terms of food additives, packaging, or lists of ingredients.
Maastricht University: Leading in Eating!
She talks passionately about her work, her people and the goal she's aiming at. "I want to have the best people working together in a win-win situation. It broadens my own focus and provides a new perspective for talented young scientists."
"It's very exciting. This collaboration between faculties is relatively unexplored territory. It's based on the idea that nutrition can be the unifying factor in the work of these different specialists. Eating, drinking, and health are subjects that concern us all. We are now in a position to combine medical issues and health with the legal, psychological and economic aspects of food."
health research @Brightlands
Food Can Be Bad for You
"Your eating pattern is entirely determined by your behavior and, consequently, by your state of mind. Why do people eat things that are not good for them? It's completely illogical. Obese people run a greater risk of over-eating because they are more sensitive to food-related stimuli when they're hungry. Moreover, they find it more difficult to decide to stop eating when they’re full. Their brain activity clearly differs from that of people of a healthy weight when they are shown pictures of food, both before and after eating.
“This is the sort of problem that the Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences is working on. The Eatwell project fits this nicely. So that made for the start of a great partnership. By working together, we can develop an institute of international status. We can become the best. Maastricht University: leading in eating! I think that's a great challenge."
The community of Brightlands makes collaboration easier
The Essence of Being Healthy
Talking to Annemie Schols is a question of paying good attention to what she's saying. Her words come tumbling out like a waterfall. You can be dazzled by her enthusiasm and the enormous amount of information she has to offer.
She is sharp and focused but, before anything else, she sees herself as someone who connects people to ideas with new developments and new possibilities.
"Our strategy extends from living healthily in order to prevent sickness to timely treatment and optimum recovery," she says. "It's about the essence of being healthy. What does that mean to you? The answer to that differs from person to person. Everything is interlinked and if you are not aware of that you can never tackle the real problem.
Eatwell is an initiative that aims to improve health while combatting 'diseases' and reducing the burden of sickness along the way. This will be done through pioneering interdisciplinary research, active communication and promotion, international cooperation on science and policy and new commercial activities focusing on a healthy lifestyle and tailor-made nutrition."
Connecting people to ideas
"We are charting the risk of disease in broad terms so that we can advise and intervene more specifically. That includes biological health, mental health, behavior and genetic susceptibility. You can only achieve this through clear collaboration between disciplines." But Annemie does not need to explain the need for this. Coincidentally, I read this morning that, in South Limburg, people are more obese, they smoke more, drink more and exercise less than anywhere else in the Netherlands. There's still a lot for the Eatwell project to do at Brightlands.