Dr. Lea Sletting Jakobsen, Researcher with the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark is in the burden-eu spotlight to discuss her experiences as an early career researcher working on the disease burden associated with dairy products.
Why are we studying the health impact of dairy products?
Dairy products – milk and all products thereof – have been a stable food in the Danish diet, but consumption has been decreasing over the last two decades. It is speculated that this trend will continue due to environmental concerns. Supported by the Danish Dairy Research Foundation, a non-commercial foundation supporting applied dairy research, we will investigate the comprehensive health impact associated with changes in consumption of dairy products using disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). To acknowledge that dairy products have increased risks for some health conditions, and are protective for others, this project will be a risk benefit assessment of dairy consumption in a Danish diet (RBDairy), rather than an estimation of the disease burden of low dairy consumption. We will also consider food safety issues related with dairy products.
How can the project benefit from burden-eu and vice versa?
The burden-eu network members expertise on risk factors and comparative risk assessments will be a key component for the RBDiary to align alongside. Personally, I will look to develip skills within optimisation of theoretical minimum risk exposure levels (TMREL), which will be relevant when working with food based dietary guidelines and assessing their public health impact.
We envisage that network members could also learn from our project. Sharing and dissemination of our project methods and results could spark interest in this topic, or other transferable areas of work. I believe that everyone involved in RBDiary will continue to benefit from the events and seminars which are organised by the burden-eu network.
Why is this project important to me as an early career researcher?
In my PhD and postdoctoral research, I have primarily worked with disease burden of foodborne chemicals and risk benefit analysis of foods in projects collaborating with our National Food Authorities. This is my first funded project where I am the Principal Investigator, and therefore it is an important landmark in my career to date. Besides that, I think the project has the potential to open up for the applicability of disease burden estimates in other settings than the public health sector. The Danish dairy industry is an important player in the global market. It is my hope that our findings could be utilised, and models be adapted to fit for purpose applications in the transition to a healthy and sustainable dairy industry both in Denmark and globally.