The aim of HELGA was to establish a Nordic solid and comprehensive foundation for whole-grain research, uncover in depth the health effects of whole grains and to make this knowledge available and lucid to consumers. HELGA joined expert scientists from the scientific fields of biomarker research, clinical trials, biobank-based epidemiology and anthropology.

Whole grains are of considerable importance for public health as existing research has linked a low intake to increased risk of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Increased knowledge about the biologically aspects of whole grains (dietary fibre, phytoestrogens, acrylamide, minerals, antioxidants and other vitamins) is needed to gain full insight into the health potentials of whole-grain foods. Furthermore, a more detailed qualitative knowledge about social and cultural dimensions of food habits is highly needed in order to understand the consumers' choice of diet.

The main objectives of the HELGA programme were to:

  • Maintain and further develop the international leading position of the Nordic countries in the research of whole grains
  • Utilize the knowledge of the involved scientific groups to generate a common platform of expertise on health aspects of whole grain products in the Nordic countries
  • Create an interdisciplinary platform where researchers within biomarker research, experimental science and epidemiology gain maximally benefit from each other. In focus will be the opportunity to test more mechanistic hypotheses in prospective cohort and intervention studies, thereby increasing the opportunity that the results will be of benefit for public health.
  • Further increase the quality of expertise within the member groups by education of scientist. This will be acquired by facilitating courses, seminars, conferences mobility of scientist between the involved centres.
  • Combine the methods to identify parameters of Nordic Nutritional patterns to create a unique background for health interventions, and ultimately, to develop guidelines for whole-grain intake based on solid evidence and support of future product development via precompetitive information given to Nordic industries to improve the health of especially Nordic but also other populations. An important part of the public health policy will be the use of a food labelling system — A key-hole for health — which has been developed by one of the partners.