Dossier Nutrition for target groups

Healthy food is not the same for everyone. What is nutritionally balanced and safe for one population group is not necessarily so for another. The challenges in the area of nutrition also differ greatly between population groups. In the research into "target group nutrition" ILVO focuses on the elderly and patients with special needs, because malnutrition and undernourishment are common problems in these groups.

Food on a plate

What does ILVO do?

  • Pictogram of a target group
    Around the theme of malnutrition, ILVO makes the necessary alliances to promote cross-fertilization between health and nutrition research.

Customized food for people with swallowing and chewing problems and loss of smell and taste

Persons with neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease often show a reduced sense of smell and taste and sometimes have to deal with swallowing and chewing problems. ILVO is therefore investigating to what extent these patients smell less and whether there are odors that are perceived better or less well. We are also investigating which preparation technologies can be used to create meals that are adapted to their specific smell and taste capacities.

Research is also being done on modifications to the texture and even the color of the meal. For people with swallowing and chewing problems, texture adjustments (e.g., mashing) are often made depending on the degree of their problem. But this often does not improve the taste and aroma not as the attractiveness of the meal.

In addition, attention is paid to functional components such as fiber and polyphenols and, of course, the nutritional composition. Certainly the protein component in the adapted diet receives the necessary attention, because it can interact with the therapy being followed.

Through this research ILVO wants to enable the care sector to create tasty, attractive, safe and nutrient-dense meals for people with taste and odor loss and/or swallowing and chewing problems, so that they retain their appetite and the risk of malnutrition is reduced.

Gut health and neurological disorders.

Finally, research is also being done on the link between nutrition, the gut microbiome and our brains - the so-called gut-brain axis. Indeed, this link has already been confirmed in patients with neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Appropriate nutrition can favorably modify the microbiome and the metabolites that are formed there. In this way, nutrition could contribute to the treatment of neurological diseases.


The research on nutrition for people with a care need started at ILVO with adapted nutrition for people with Parkinson's disease. For Parkinson's patients, and by extension people who experience loss of smell and taste and chewing and swallowing problems, a cooking guide for caring cooking was developed in collaboration with Parki's kookatelier. With the help of that guide, patients can enjoy a tasty, feasible and responsible meal despite their condition, while still meeting their specific nutritional needs.

Fighting malnutrition in the healthcare sector together

ILVO does not fight malnutrition in the healthcare sector alone, but seeks alliances to promote cross-fertilization between health and nutrition research.

ILVO is involved in these initiatives, among others:

  • The NPCC (Nutrition Platform for Chronic Care) project on nutrition for target groups.
  • NuHCaS, an open research and innovation center that brings together the disciplines of Nutrition, Health and Care in a systemic approach.
  • An industry-driven network with a focus on growth and innovation in the food sector. ILVO participates in numerous projects under the common denominator 'impact of food on health'.

Co-creation for innovations in target group nutrition

To increase the chances of success of innovative products, there is a need for consultation with all the parties involved. Through co-creation, products can be developed that meet the criteria of both the producer and the consumer (e.g. target groups).

In the Food Pilot of ILVO and Flanders' FOOD, innovations and solutions are realized by means of pilot tests in the pilot factory, analyses and advice. Specifically within the framework of the Balanced Food Covenant, a commitment within the Belgian food industry, the Food Pilot already contributed to salt, sugar and fat reduction in foodstuffs. This took into account important aspects such as food safety (salt reduction versus conservation). These and other success stories of the Food Pilot can be found in the brochure 'Getting started in the Food Pilot'.

Also read these dossiers

  • Nutrition and health: through all kinds of channels (whether scientifically based or not) this topic is increasingly figuratively landing on our plates. But how can we still see the trees through the forest?
  • Gut health: ILVO's gut health platform aims to investigate the link between nutrition and health by measuring the gut microbiome and other physiological parameters in human models and under controlled conditions, in a multi-omics approach.
  • Taste and smell: Healthy food must taste good, otherwise no one will eat it. Therefore, taste and smell are also important.
  • Food Safety and Allergens: Both important basic conditions when we talk about healthy food.

See also

Contact day

International Symposium on Food Allergens

Past Pacheco Room (Entrance Finance Tower), Boulevard Pacheco 13, 1000 Brussels

Within the framework of Belgian National Reference Laboratory, ILVO, FASFC, Wageningen Food Safety Research and CER Groupe, are pleased to i...