Smartfood: the IEO nutrition program

SmartFood is a research project in Nutritional Sciences and Communication promoted by the European Institute of Oncology in Milan.

The most recent and extraordinary frontier of research in the field of nutrition is to identify strategies for feed modulation in order to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and increase life expectancy. Hence SmartFood, the research and popular science project on the protective factors of diet for a new nutritional approach to prevention. The IEO SmartFood project engages researchers, nutritionists, doctors in the same direction: select foods that protect health and communicate the results of science in nutrition.


The purpose of the SmartFood project is to develop and coordinate interventions at different levels:

  • Research Activities, aimed at identifying the active ingredients in foods of vegetal origin and evaluate its effects on health through nutritional intervention studies parallel to laboratory activities (program SmartFood).
  • Scientific Communication, with the aim of promoting health through the dissemination of practical tools to adapt the information obtained from scientific research to the daily feeding pattern.



    In the context of popular science and nutrition education, the strategy in place provides communication closely linked to the results of research and international guidelines leveraging the expertise of the scientific team at IEO.


    In this light, the SmartFood project shares the message of the World Wide Fund for Cancer Research that has provided an evaluation of the degree of evidence on the relation between a number of foods, obesity and physical activity with the most frequent tumors. Based on a careful evaluation of results from scientific research to date, a panel of experts has elaborated ten recommendations for cancer prevention at the individual level, corresponding to as many specific objectives of public health.


    Revisions have considered all the different types of epidemiological studies, from descriptive to prospective studies, which investigate the correlations between diet and health in large populations. Experts have therefore divided the results into four levels: "convincing evidence", "probable evidence", "limited evidence" and a last level that collects the effects for which the evidence of association with the tumor.


    Those who have already had cancer tend to be more motivated on the factors related to health. Reading, learning and implementing changes in lifestyle are important actions that can help prevent a recurrence or other secondary pathologies. It should be stressed that research in this area is in its infancy and is not easy to achieve unique and compelling results in a short time. It is important to recognize what messages are drawn from scientific results and when they derive from misinterpretations or misinformation.


    • Read carefully: scientific progress needs time to get convincing results. Be careful with the terms "scientific breakthrough" or "miracle": even a seemingly plausible discovery needs time to be confirmed.
    • Search for the "full version" of the story: the reports that you can see on TV or read in the newspapers are too short to include all the details of a topic. It is crucial to explore these questions in books or specific magazines, checking for the presence of the results in scientific journals.
    • Do not rely on apparently too easy solutions: Cancer is a complex disease for which "magic" solutions or miracle cures cannot be found. Even the human body is a complex machine and the food we consume in the diet is rich in hundreds or even thousands of different compounds. The best strategy for cancer prevention is to be sought in an overall lifestyle and not in just one food.
    • Relying on recognized institutional sources: before taking drastic changes, it is advisable to consult your doctor who will surely be able to give an opinion based on the scientific validity of the new strategy to be implemented and also on whether it is adequate for the subject.
    • Maintain a healthy skepticism: it is not necessary to discredit or wary of any article or report we read or watch, but you just use common sense. If a solution sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


Università degli Studi di Milano


Ministero della Salute Joint Commission International bollinirosa

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