Food for thought: A Swiss Re perspective

Swiss Re is dedicated to making the world more resilient by working with the market, policy makers, and partners to reach people who are underinsured.

Creating, collecting, and curating risk knowledge is critical to realise this vision. The Swiss Re Institute provides the research and development platform to expand Swiss Re’s position as the thought leader in the re/insurance industry by developing and sharing industry relevant research from internal experts and external partners.

In the area of life and health insurance, the institute explores ways to help people live longer and healthier lives and close the gap between the insurance coverage individuals have and the coverage needed to ensure they are resilient to typical life and health risks (the insurance protection gap). We also engage with various stakeholders by sharing insights, tailored services, and products to enable risk focused decision making and smarter solutions to manage risk.

Considering the effect that nutrition has on diseases like diabetes, obesity, and cancer, we are pleased to partner with The BMJ and its impressive ambition to drive good science and research in the nutrition space. With sponsorship from Swiss Re Institute, The BMJ has commissioned a series of articles authored by nutrition and research experts. These articles cover a range of topics, including key macronutrients such as dietary fat, personalised nutrition, gut microbiota, nutritional approaches to disease prevention, and management of type 2 diabetes. Several articles focus on broader issues such as hunger, malnutrition, and evidence in nutritional science. Each article has multiple authors (often with conflicting views) to foster open and honest debate around what we know and, more importantly, what we don't.

In this spirit, we are hosting a related launch event, “Food for thought: the science and politics of nutrition.” By convening top researchers in nutrition, we aspire to uncover ideas on how best to move forward and develop a better understanding of the studies needed to resolve conflicting recommendations. A good example is what we’re told about fat consumption: the American Heart Association and World Health Organization both advise a limit on overall, and particularly saturated, fat. However, the PURE study published last year suggests increased consumption of total fat is associated with lower risk of mortality and that increased saturated fat consumption is not associated with detrimental health outcomes.

As noted in the Observations article by John Schoonbee and Emile Elefteriadis, diabetes and obesity have a devastating effect on health systems, insurers, and, most importantly, people. By developing a better understanding of nutrition and resolving long standing disagreements with respect to key health research questions, we can develop much better dietary guidelines and related policies. This cannot happen too soon.

Swiss Re Institute will be involved in a number of research initiatives and events over the next several years to broaden and deepen our collective understanding of this critical topic. As a scientist who does not have specific training in nutrition research but tries to stay informed about how I can improve my health, I look forward to this research and related discussions to cut through the confusion. We all benefit from this increased clarity.

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