The mission of the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIfE) is to conduct experimental and clinical research in the field of nutrition and health, with the aim of understanding the molecular basis of nutrition-dependent diseases, and of developing new strategies for prevention, treatment, and nutritional recommendations.
Scientists at the DIfE pursue these scientific goals through interdisciplinary cooperation comprising a broad spectrum of experimental and epidemiological methods. A particular focus of the institute is research on the most important diseases at present, i.e., obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, whose development may involve nutrition-dependent factors.
Since DIfE’s establishment in 1992, significant progress in elucidating the genetic basis of obesity and diabetes has been made. For example, DIfE scientists identified gene variants in a mouse model that are responsible for obesity and diabetes. In addition, they contributed considerably to the elucidation of the molecular basis of taste perception – an important requirement to understand food choice and nutritional behavior. Based on epidemiological data derived from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC*), they also identified nutritional habits that are linked to an increased cancer risk or the development of other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Using the data of the Potsdam EPIC Study they developed the German Diabetes Risk Score that can be used to determine an individual‘s risk of type 2 diabetes. The test is available online as an interactive test and as a questionnaire.
As many questions cannot be answered by a single institute alone, DIfE has joined forces with other research networks. At the national level, it is a partner of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) established by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The center unites experts in diabetes research from all parts of the country, linking basic research with translational research, epidemiology, and clinical practice. In addition, DIfE is an associate member of the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) and an active member of the National Genome Research Network (NGFN) and the Competence Network Obesity. Moreover, it is involved in planning and recruitment efforts for the “National Cohort Study” where it will be responsible for the recruitment of 10,000 study participants.
*EPIC: A multiple-centre, European-wide study that is designed to investigate the relationship between nutrition and the incidence of cancer and other chronic diseases.