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Zero Hidden Hunger EU project to tackle micronutrient deficiency

02 May 2024

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Zero Hidden Hunger EU, a new, multi-partner European consortium led by University College Cork, has received nearly €10 million in funding for ground-breaking research into tackling micronutrient deficiency over the next four years.

The Quadram Institute will be contributing its expertise to the project, looking in particular at bioavailable iron and zinc in current diets, and how this may change in the future.

Micronutrient deficiency, a widespread form of malnutrition, poses significant challenges to human health and development across Europe. Recognising the urgency of this public health issue, the Zero Hidden Hunger EU project is set to revolutionise our understanding and response to micronutrient deficiencies.

Micronutrient deficiency arises from the inadequate intake or absorption of essential minerals and vitamins. It can impact anyone, but at particular risk are children, adolescents, pregnant women, older adults, immigrant communities, and those affected by social inequalities. Despite its prevalence, addressing this issue effectively requires comprehensive data on the prevalence of microntrient deficiencies prevalence and their underlying causes.

Zero Hidden Hunger EU aims to fill this critical gap by pursuing two primary objectives:

  1. Estimating Prevalence and Health Costs: The project will generate accurate measures of micronutrient deficiency prevalence using priority biomarker and intake data from diverse European populations. By focusing on high-risk groups, marginalized communities and vulnerable populations, the project aims to uncover the true extent of the issue and its associated health costs.
  2. Developing Tailored Solutions: Armed with robust evidence, the project seeks to develop context-specific, food-focused strategies to ensure adequate micronutrient intake from sustainable sources. By leveraging existing data resources, biobanks, and targeted studies, the consortium aims to deliver tailored solutions that address the root causes of micronutrient deficiencies across Europe.

Zero Hidden Hunger EU will employ cutting-edge techniques, including high-throughput biomarker analysis and advanced data modelling, to generate credible evidence. This evidence will empower policymakers and food system actors to implement targeted interventions and eradicate micronutrient deficiencies from Europe.

The Quadram Institute is an associate partner in Zero Hidden Hunger EU. Dr Maria Traka and her team in the Food & Nutrition National Bioscience Research Infrastructure will be looking at two key micronutrients where deficiencies are already prevalent: iron and zinc. They will carry out, for the first time, an assessment of how much bioavailable iron and zinc we are currently getting from our diets. They will then use advanced modelling techniques to estimate how this may change with dietary shifts, for example switching to more plant-based diets.

“I am delighted to be part of this project that aims to understand the extend of micronutrient deficiencies in Europe and develop innovative solutions to tackle these” said Dr Maria Traka from the Food and Nutrition NBRI at the Quadram Institute.

“Micronutrient deficiencies can unfortunately go unnoticed despite posing significant health risks. For some of these micronutrients it is not only the amounts we are getting from our diets that matters but also whether they are bioavailable, i.e. whether they can be effectively absorbed. For example, the types of foods we are combining in our meals matter for iron and zinc bioavailability and some plant foods can also inhibit our absorption.”

Professors Mairead Kiely and Kevin Cashman, of project Coordinator University College Cork, expressed optimism about the project’s potential impact.

“Zero Hidden Hunger EU represents a landmark effort to confront the silent crisis of micronutrient deficiency in Europe. By leveraging innovative research methodologies and collaborative partnerships, we aim to drive meaningful change and ensure equitable access to essential nutrients across European populations.”

The Zero Hidden Hunger EU project underscores the importance of collective action in addressing complex public health challenges across Europe. By prioritizing data-driven interventions and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, the project aims to pave the way for a healthier, more resilient Europe.

Zero Hidden Hunger EU is co-funded by the European Union, under the Horizon Europe programme, under grant agreement No 101124527. This project will also receive funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee. The Quadram Institute and the Food and Nutrition NBRI receive strategic support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Coulncil, part of UKRI.

About Zero Hidden Hunger EU:

Zero Hidden Hunger EU is a collaborative research initiative aimed at addressing the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies across European populations. Led by a consortium of experts from diverse disciplines, the project seeks to generate actionable evidence to inform targeted interventions and eradicate hidden hunger in Europe. For more information, visit

Zero Hidden Hunger EU is co-funded by the European Union, under the Horizon Europe programme, under grant agreement No 101124527. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

This work has received funding from the Swiss Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).

This project will also receive funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) under the UK government’s Horizon Europe funding guarantee.

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