Bad eating habits are risk factors for major chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, presenting a threat to human health worldwide. Our food choices, in turn, do not only affect general health, but also brain health more specifically. With population ageing, preventing cognitive decline is becoming more challenging and costs associated with neurodegenerative diseases like dementia are increasing dramatically. Healthy nutrition earlier in life is of utmost importance in the prevention of brain diseases later in life. However, breaking bad habits for behavioural change is not easy in our current obesogenic and unequal society.
In 2015, Radboud University, Radboudumc, and the Max Planck Institute at the Radboud campus decided to prioritize Food & Cognition as one of the leading themes of their Healthy Brain initiative to address these key societal challenges. This was done after running several successful public-private projects on eating behaviour and targeted nutrition for brain health, together with Wageningen University and Research (WUR). WUR is renowned worldwide for its outstanding food and nutrition research, whereas Radboud campus encompasses world-class research institutes studying brain, cognition and behaviour (e.g., the Donders Institute and the Behavioural Science Institute). In 2016, the Radboud University and WUR officially joined their complementary forces to create a worldwide leading Food & Cognition programme. In 2018, their team of already more than 40 leading scientists became even stronger by the addition of research groups of the University of Twente, well known for their excellence in smart coaching, e-health research and design. The three universities teamed up with their valued partner organisations OnePlanet Research Center (which i3B Foundation joined), Noldus IT, Mead Johnson Nutrition / RB and Noaber Foundation to create a public-private Food & Cognition network. For the creation of this network, these universities and their SME partners received a cluster- and network-EFRO (European Regional Development Fund). In 2019, the Food & Cognition programme was also the happy recipient of a Pearl of the Region award by The Economic Board.