Pieter van ’t Veer (1957) studied Human Nutrition (Wageningen, 1982), Epidemiology (Harvard School Public Health, 1982). He obtained his PhD in Nutritional Epidemiology (Maastricht, 1990) and was employed by The Netherlands Cancer Foundation (1982), TNO Nutrition Institute (1984) and Wageningen University (1994). He chaired the Nutrition and Epidemiology group, Division of Human Nutrition (2002 onwards). His scientific career initially focused on carcinogenesis and gradually shifted to NCDds, biomarkers, exposure assessment, dietary habits and prevention and finally environmental sustainability and food systems. In 2015 he was endowed with a special mandate from Wageningen University in Nutrition, Public Health and Sustainability.
Diet and lifestyle are key to obesity and subsequent NCDs. Moreover, nutritional imbalances among children and elderly contribute to the double burden of disease in LMICs, and to decreased quality of life in ageing populations. At the same time, there is increased pressure on the environmental sustainability of world-wide food production. There is a great need for healthy, environmentally sustainable and consumer-friendly diets.
Until now, sustainability of diets largely focussed on aggregate population data and sustainability indicators of specific agricultural commodities. Although sustainability metrics are increasingly based on LCA, they need not only to account for GHG-emissions, but also for use of land, water, and (yet) less tangible issues like biodiversity. However, simple replacement of foods by environmentally friendlier counterparts usually affects the dietary pattern of consumers as a whole. Thus, measures to reduce environmental burden should also safeguard nutritional health and they should be acceptable for consumers. As consumers’ food choice and dietary patterns rely on the supply via the agri-food chain, current and future food systems with the diet patterns they deliver need to be evaluated not only with respect to environmental sustainability, cost-efficiency of production chains, but also with respect to nutrition security.
In the scientific literature, several approaches are being developed to characterize dietary patterns that meet all these constraints and that can evaluate the potential win-win and trade-offs between environmental, nutritional and economic aspects of sustainability. Stakeholder perspectives on desirable dietary patterns can elicit crucial societal debates to affect transitions in the food system.