News items Five grants awarded for research on lifestyle interventions in healthcare  

13 February 2024

Researchers at Radboud university medical center have been awarded five different grants within the lifestyle in healthcare program by ZonMw. Nienke de Vries will conduct research into personalized lifestyle advice for people with Parkinson's disease. Annemiek Nap will focus on a dietary intervention combined with cognitive behavioral therapy for endometriosis. Marcia Spoelder-Merkens will investigate lifestyle intervention by general practitioners for depression. Malou Nuijten will examine the effects of nutrition after gastric bypass surgery, and Marcel Olde Rikkert will study lifestyle intervention for cognitive disorders such as dementia. 

Helping and guiding people who are ill as effectively as possible, and ideally aiding in their recovery, is an important ambition of Radboudumc. However, it's even more rewarding if we can prevent people from getting sick in the first place and enable them to live longer in good health. The goal is to add two healthy years to the life expectancy of residents in our region and our patients. Therefore, in the coming years, we are shifting our focus from disease and healthcare to health and behavior. With the subsidies awarded, various specialists at Radboudumc will be able to conduct research into different aspects of lifestyle and prevention. 

Out of the thirteen grants awarded by ZonMw, five are allocated to Radboudumc. These grants support the following five research proposals focusing on lifestyle interventions in healthcare: 

Personalized lifestyle intervention for Parkinson's disease – Nienke de Vries  

Despite increasing evidence of the importance of a healthy lifestyle, it is still given little attention in practice. Healthcare providers lack expertise and time for this. Nevertheless, there are good initiatives. In this project, we combine existing initiatives to offer a comprehensive package to people with Parkinson's disease. The researchers focus on stress, exercise, nutrition, sleep, and self-management. Each individual receives personalized lifestyle advice. Together with a lifestyle coach, the patient chooses which aspect to work on and what guidance is needed. The researchers evaluate the effect of this approach, considering the quality of life and Parkinson's symptoms. They also assess costs and user experiences. Finally, they prepare for the implementation of this approach in daily practice, using Parkinson's disease as an example for addressing other (chronic) conditions. 

Effectiveness of a dietary intervention and cognitive behavioral therapy in endometriosis-associated pain – Annemiek Nap  

Endometriosis causes pain and a reduced quality of life. Existing treatments are insufficient. Researchers aim to improve the treatment of endometriosis symptoms by investigating whether lifestyle interventions, such as an anti-inflammatory diet combined with cognitive behavioral therapy, can have a positive effect on pain and quality of life in individuals with endometriosis. They will also unravel the mechanisms responsible for this effect. The researchers expect participants to experience less pain and better quality of life through the diet. Psychological guidance will hopefully provide them with more insight into endometriosis and help them stay motivated to adhere to the diet. The research is conducted in collaboration with Rijnstate, Jeroen Bosch Hospital, Amphia, Catharina Hospital, Wageningen University, and the Endometriosis Foundation. 

Personalized lifestyle intervention by general practitioners for depression – Marcia Spoelder-Merkens  

Depression is common and has a negative impact on the daily lives of patients, their loved ones, and society. Various lifestyle interventions in general practice show similar effects to medication or cognitive behavioral therapy. However, the lifestyle approach is underutilized due to a lack of organized offerings and infrequent monitoring of symptom changes. We investigate the (cost)effectiveness of a personalized lifestyle intervention (PLI) for depression in general practice. This intervention utilizes existing eHealth applications and regularly feeds back symptom progress to patients and practitioners. Our aim is to achieve a better and faster recovery from depression. The first year will involve the development and testing of the intervention. Subsequently, a study will be conducted in multiple general practices to compare the addition of PLI with current depression treatment.

High-protein diet after gastric bypass surgery – Malou Nuijten  

The number of people undergoing gastric bypass surgery for severe obesity is increasing, but excessive muscle loss after such surgery can negatively impact health. Therefore, additional measures are needed to limit excessive muscle loss after gastric bypass surgery. This project aims to improve postoperative care for gastric bypass patients and long-term health outcomes for 12,000 patients per year while reducing healthcare costs. The researchers will develop an intervention involving extra protein intake and strength training in collaboration with patients and healthcare providers. They will measure the effects and costs of this intervention through a randomized controlled trial involving 400 patients. The results of this project have the potential to significantly enhance postoperative care for gastric bypass patients, thereby improving the long-term health of approximately 12,000 patients per year and reducing healthcare costs. 

Personalized lifestyle intervention for dementia – Marcel Olde Rikkert  

Treating cognitive disorders through medication or prevention focused on only one lifestyle factor has proven ineffective. This study develops a personalized lifestyle intervention by selecting the most relevant risk factors per individual that affect cellular inflammatory activity. These factors include sleep, physical, social, and cognitive activity, nutrition, alcohol, or hearing. The researchers will also develop and test self-monitoring methods to more efficiently track cognitive functioning through repeated measurements. This approach could be groundbreaking for prevention research, allowing for shorter and smaller-scale studies. This approach is also applicable to other age-related diseases such as neurodegenerative disorders and cancer. The Lifestyle Selfie study has the potential to improve cognitive health and quality of life for those with cognitive disorders, and reduce dependence on caregivers.

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Pauline Dekhuijzen

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