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Eva Schernhammer receives funding for international dietary screening project

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(Vienna, 08 April 2022) Eva Schernhammer, head of the Department of Epidemiology at MedUni Vienna's Center for Public Health, has been awarded a major grant as part of the Joint Programming Initiative 'A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life' (JPI HDHL). The international project VEGANScreener, coordinated at MedUni Vienna, is developing a tool for the prevention and early detection of nutritional deficiencies in vegans.

The primary aim of the VEGANScreener project is the prevention and early detection of nutritional deficiencies in the diets of Europeans who follow a predominantly plant-based diet, with a particular focus on the vegan population.

"To achieve this aim, we plan to develop and validate a short, standardised web- and app-based dietary screening tool to assess and monitor the food intake of vegans," explains Eva Schernhammer, "and we will take the initial steps towards its application by end-users. When it comes to conducting nutritional studies among vegans, it is particularly challenging to make an accurate and comprehensive assessment of their consumption of vegan and vegetarian foods, such as plant-based milks, algae, calcium-rich mineral water, and meat substitutes ."

These foods are not all included in the "Food Frequency Questionnaires" (FFQs) of existing cohort studies, such as NutriNet Sante, the Nurses' Health Study or the UK Biobank. It is not therefore possible to evaluate current vegan dietary patterns from these cohorts. In order to achieve the project's research objectives, which include the validation of a novel vegan dietary screener, 400 vegans will be recruited from four European countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain). In addition to this, new biomarker approaches, including metabolomics, are being applied to identify subtypes of vegans. Finally, as a first step towards broader end-user acceptance, digital applications targeting healthcare providers (information and education website) and end-user vegans (app for self-assessment of vegan diet quality) will be developed and tested for acceptance and utilisation.

About Eva Schernhammer
Eva Schernhammer studied medicine and psychology at the University of Vienna and then worked as a doctor for seven years - she is a specialist in general medicine. During her subsequent specialist training in internal medicine/oncology (with Christian Dittrich, 3rd. Med SMZ-South), she went to Harvard University in 1999, where she received a master's degree in public health (quantitative methods) in 2000 and a doctorate in public health from the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2003. In 2005 she qualified externally as a lecturer in Public Health/Social Medicine at the Medical University of Vienna.

Eva Schernhammer has been a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health since 2003 and an adjunct professor in the Department for Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health since 2015.

She has been Professor of Epidemiology at MedUni Vienna since 2015 and heads up the Department of Epidemiology at MedUni Vienna's Center for Public Health.

Schernhammer is a founding member of the association "Austrian Scientists  in North America" (ASciNA) and served as its president for many years. Since 2013, she has been on the advisory panel for the award of the Houska Prize - the largest privately funded Austrian science prize. In 2018, she was elected president of the Austrian Society of Epidemiology.

In January 2021, the Joint Program Initiative (JPI) "Healthy Diet for Healthy Life" (HDHL) launched the call "Standardized measurement, monitoring and/or biomarkers to study food intake, physical activity and health" (STAMIFY), the 4th additional non-cofunded Joint Funding Action (JFA) implemented in the frame of the ERA-Net Cofund HDHL INTIMIC (INtesTInal MICrobiomics).