ALPHA project

Welcome to project ALPHA

Our goal and what we do

The trend, the urge, and the pressure to eat a more plant-based diet because of sustainability reasons might jeopardise rather than improve the health of older adults.  Older adults have increased requirements for high-quality dietary proteins.  Plant-based protein sources often lack essential amino acids, are less easy to digest and contain less iron and no vitamin B12, which are important nutrients for older adults.  An uncareful transition to plant-based diets at older ages might therefore introduce nutritional deficiencies that could lead to alterations in physical and cognitive functions.

A healthy shift to plant-based diets can be achieved by careful planning. To do this, it is necessary to combine the right plant-based protein sources so that these complement each other’s limitations and jointly act as a high-quality protein blend. Solving the puzzle is hard: every ingredient has a specific amino acid profile, new plant-based products are entering the market weekly, and there are endless possible combinations of food items. We believe that solving this puzzle is overly complex and time-consuming for consumers, dietitians, and meal planners, while it should be easily solved by smart algorithms and complete datasets.

Project ALPHA has the goal to build these datasets and algorithms, and implement them in a user-friendly tool that gives users direct feedback on their meals while taking into account nutritional needs and sustainability. With this, we want to make the protein transition accessible for everyone.


Focus group meetings completed

This week, we have had the final round of focus groups with dietitians and older adults, in The Netherlands and in Copenhagen. The focus groups are thereby finished. In three different sessions, in June, September, and November, we gathered targeted input from these potential end-users of the tool. They expressed their specific needs, the circumstances in which they would use the tool, ideas for additional functionalities, and the design of the application. In the final focus group meeting, we were able to show them the first screens of the tool! We have received a lot of information on the clarity of these screens, and we know exactly how to keep on developing.

The current project is almost at its end. The 9 months funded by AAL end in December. This means that we are busy with writing the final report and manuscript and that we are actively seeking new investors/subsidies to further develop the tool. In the next phase, we aim to test the calculations and feedback of the AI by running simulation data, and after improving identified flaws, test the application in a real-life setting. So, stay tuned, because this adventure is all but over!

User Task Environment, Brainwriting, Walt Disney Method, and Cognitive Walkthrough were used to co-create the amino acid tool in focus groups with dietitians and older adults


Focus groups have started

We have successfully recruited (almost) all participants for the focus groups in Wageningen and Denmark. The first focus groups have been concluded, and information, directions and ideas from the participants have been used to guide us in developing the right tool. Meanwhile, our researchers are busy systematically transcribing all information from the focus group meetings for scientific publications. We kindly thank all participants for these first sessions, and we look forward to seeing you again in September for the next sessions.

A real-life gathering

As usual these days, we have mainly met each other digitally in Teams meetings. Even within Wageningen, the meetings between WUR and FI had been mainly online, until a few weeks ago. But last Friday, we met with delegates of all four consortium partners in Wageningen (see picture). It was a real pleasure to meet our colleagues from Romania and Denmark. After a very productive, information-dense meeting of a few hours, we continued with a nice dinner in the city centre of Wageningen.


Being at almost one-third of the project timeline, it is good to check our progress so far. We have made great advancements with our databases, algorithm decisions, front-end designs and focus groups. all work packages know exactly what to do in the coming time. We look forward to the coming months, in which we can finally start building the machine!

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Wageningen University & Research
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