The Hildegard Grunow Foundation for Nutrition Research (HGF)


The HGF is a nonprofit foundation, located in Munich, Germany.

(1) Its purpose is to promote and sponsor research in the fields of nutrition and food science, as applied to public health and medicine, including molecular, toxicological and physiological aspects, as well as ecology and conservation of natural resources. One focus of the Foundation is on the interaction between nutrition, health and ecology, whereas another is on training of young scientists and health professionals and local capacity building of emerging institutions, both focused preferentially in the developing world.

Moreover, HGF supports research projects on the interaction among dietary components and their impact on homoeostatically regulated mechanisms to reveal the interrelationships among nutrition, health, and environmental ecology.


(2) Towards these ends, HGF supports specifically:

a) Field research projects in nutrition with evident potential for the goals mentioned above, which are not yet sufficiently advanced to attract funding from more formal donors and granting agencies.

b) Publication in scientific journals and dissemination at national and international congress meetings of new findings in the aforementioned fields of research.

c) Scholarship for the training of young professionals and local capacity building in developing countries.


       

       

      Background

       

      The dream of a world without food problems is possibly older than the dream to reach the stars. Considering available technology, and that presently under development, both dreams have a potential to become true, but remain utopian till date due to political, financial and practical reasons. Food security was declared a human right by the UN; the most visible obstacles on the way to reach this goal are found on the social, political and environmental level. They become particularly obvious when disasters shake up supply structures which are already labile under normal circumstances. Such interferences can be due to natural causes, such as the earthquake in Haiti or the drought at the Horn of Africa, or it can be due to human interference like wars and civil unrest. Such events catch much attention in the media; and appeals to collect money for emergency relief usually find a broad response.

       

      Where is HGF found in this field?

       

      Attempts to respond to the world nutrition problems have primarily ethical dimensions. Relief measures, however, require effective instruments based on findings in nutrition and food sciences. Work to develop such instruments and to adapt them to ever changing local conditions hardly finds any public interest. It is much less ostentatious than pictures of emaciated children and overstrained first aiders or reconstruction works in areas hit by disaster, who, however, would not be able to do effective and sustainable jobs without such instruments. The Hildegard Grunow Foundation is working towards this end and tries to test and adapt new concepts and instruments for effective use in Third World nutrition.

         

      A current example:

       
      The range and ramification of corresponding activities can best be illustrated by an example. “Hidden hunger” is the term for deficiency of essential micronutrients, such as iodine, vitamin A and iron. Thus, iron deficiency is widely spread in developing countries, which is due to almost exclusive consumption of vegetarian food staples. Due to high demand during rapid growth it is particularly common in children and restricts their physical and intellectual development. In pregnancy it leads to frequent miscarriages and abortions. National supplementation programs in the affected target group try to cope with the situation. Iron deficiency is particularly common in tropical regions and overlaps largely with areas endemic for malaria. Malaria plasmodia as well require iron for their expansion in the host. This leads to the question, if such compulsory supplemental iron intake rather supports the development of the child or of the plasmodia. A large study on Pemba, an island off the Tanzanian coast, published in 2006, revealed significantly more severe and more often deadly courses of malaria in iron-supplemented as compared to non-supplemented children. Consequently, the study was stopped preterm. This result left the concept of untargeted iron supplementation programs in the dilemma of choice between not treating iron-deficiency and inducing more severe clinical causes of malaria. 
      Closer analysis showed, however, that such iron-related damage was restricted to children who received iron without corresponding demand. In contrast, iron supplementation to iron-deficient children influenced the course of malaria beneficially. Consequently, WHO recommended restricting iron supplementation to iron-deficient individuals. This requires the development and testing of affordable methods to assess iron status. Moreover, these methods should be non-invasive to avoid the risk of spreading blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis by blood sampling. Hildegard Grunow Foundation bought and tested devices of 3 different manufacturers in the field which were constructed for this purpose. Some of the results are promising, though no breakthrough was achieved so far. Alternatively, iron-preparations could be used that supply the host organism, though they are less accessible to plasmodium. Another task is to distinguish malaria-induced inflammatory effects on anemia from the effect of iron-deficiency. This field, thus, encompasses a number of urgent questions and our foundation participates in the quest to find solutions.

       

      Statutable aims of the foundation

       

      1. To develop, adapt, and control intervention strategies that help to solve Third World nutrition problems is the primary goal of our foundation. Intervention strategies may have consequences that are hazardous to health. Such hazards need to be recognized, avoided and controlled for. 
      2. In this context promising techniques are to be adapted and tested in the field, though commercial companies may have developed them primarily for different purposes. This requires intensive exchange of ideas with engaged and possibly supportive parties. Particularly promising techniques in early stages of their development that are not yet sufficiently advanced to apply successfully for large scale support are to be detected and put to the test.
      3. These tasks require technical understanding, engagement and insight into the respective local nutritional problems. Therefore, to support training and qualification of young scientists in nutrition, food sciences and related subjects is among our statutable aims. The foundation supports the involvement of students from industrialized countries in Third World nutritional projects and, vice versa, training and qualification of respective students from developing countries in Europe or North America.
      4. Hildegard Grunow Foundation is a charitable non-profit organization in compliance with German law and can hand out tax exempting receipts for donated money. On request, donations can be targeted to specific projects, if these are compatible with the goals of the foundation.

      HGF is a small foundation and the revenues from its capital stock are but the famous “drop in the ocean” in face of the enormous size of the task, i.e. of the pressing nutritional questions in face of expanding populations. The need to work on the scientific basis required for sustainable solutions of nutritional questions seems obvious and donations are warmly welcome.

         

      Rainer Gross Prize

       

      To help finding promising projects and to foster the development of innovative solutions to pressing problems of Third-World-nutrition the Hildegard Grunow Foundation created the Rainer Gross Prize. It is awarded biannually in the context of an international conference of nutrition or public health. The application rules can be found on our corresponding web page.

         

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