European Obesity Day

Crédits: Adobe Stock

Friday, May 18 is European Obesity Day. A day to raise the awareness of healthcare players, caregivers and patients of this issue which affects more than 650 million people worldwide.

According to WHO, 13% of adults worldwide were obese in 2014, a figure which had doubled since 1980.

Obesity is often diagnosed using the body mass index (BMI), a calculation that estimates body fat. BMI is a person’s weight (in kg) divided by the square of their height (in meters). Apart from the psychological and social discomfort generated by this chronic condition, it also leads to health problems, primarily type 2 diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.


Teams from Inserm are mobilized to advance research in this field.

Nutri-score: a new nutritional aid for the consumer

A team of researchers (Inserm/ Inra/ Cnam/ Université Paris 13) led by Serge Hercberg, has revealed via a study published in the journal Nutrients  that this 5 color (5-C) nutrition label is the most effective nutritional information system for enabling consumers to recognize and compare the nutritional quality of foods, including those from “at risk” populations (older subjects, those with a low educational level, low income, poor nutritional knowledge, and overweight or obese individuals).

Following this study and as part of the 2016 Health Act, the French government recommended the deployment of Nutri-Score in order to improve product nutrition information and thereby help consumers to buy foods of better nutritional quality.

Read our press release: “The 5-colour nutritional labelling system is the most effective for consumers”


Online coaching for abdominal obesity

A study coordinated by Dr. Boris Hansel and Prof. Ronan Roussel, shows that online nutritional coaching – an automated nutritional support program – improves dietary habits and glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes and abdominal obesity.

The results show a significant increase in the dietary score in the online coaching group (+5.25 points) in comparison with the control group (-1.83) on average.

Read our press release: “Efficacy of online nutritional coaching in patients with type 2 diabetes and abdominal obesity”

And because good health also depends on good diet and exercise, consult our nutrition and health report (only available in French) on the Inserm website.

Immunization Week 2018

The thirteenth annual World Immunization Week will take place from April 23 to 29, 2018. The campaign, created by the World Health Organization (WHO), undertakes to raise awareness about the stakes of vaccine protection.

This year, WHO is focusing on the importance of immunizing every child to “prevent the relevant diseases and protect their lives.”

The theme of the French version of this event, coordinated by the Ministry of Health and Santé Publique France, will be infant immunization. It will be a chance to continue teaching people about immunization in the context of the extension of vaccination requirements for children under age two, which entered into force in France on January 1, 2018.

The aim of the week is to increase understanding about what immunization is while reminding people that it is the best way to prevent certain illnesses.

Read the Inserm report that reviews the scientific knowledge relating to vaccination.

Read our other content about immunization:

Combining Administration Routes for Tailor-made Vaccination

Vaccines: Good News for Our Children!

What does science say about the eleven vaccines that will be mandatory for all children in France starting in 2018?

Rare Disease Day 2018: Show Your Rare. Show You Care.

February 28, 2018, marks the eleventh annual world Rare Disease Day, which carries the slogan “Show your rare. Show you care.” and the #ShowYourRare hashtag. World Rare Disease Day was created in 2008 by EURORDIS and the Council of National Alliances. Ninety countries will be participating in 2018.

Orphanet: a Portal for Rare Diseases and Orphan Drugs

Orphanet, which is coordinated by Inserm and is a member of the Rare Disease Platform, is the portal of reference for rare diseases and orphan drugs. It offers an array of freely accessible services to allow patients to understand their disease and its consequences, and to orient them in their care pathways by identifying diagnosis laboratories and reference centers.

Access Orphanet

Contact Orphanet

SOLVE-RD: Major European Funding for Rare Disease Research

A large consortium headed by the University of Tübingen (Germany), the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen (Netherlands), and the University of Leicester (UK), as well as Inserm in France through Orphanet, two major research institutions (the Myology Center for Research and the Brain and Spine institute in Paris), Eurordis, and the Dijon University Hospital, received a €15 million grant for the SOLVE-RD research program.

This large-scale research program is operating under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program. Its aim is to use a single infrastructure to coordinate and analyze all data generated across Europe on rare diseases in order to better identify and diagnose people suffering from the same rare disease.

Today, no less than twenty-four European Reference Networks (ERN) have been set up to improve and harmonize diagnosis and treatment for people with rare diseases. To date, four of them have joined SOLVE-RD by adding and sharing their patient data: RND for rare neurological diseases, EURO-NMD for neuromuscular diseases, ITHACA for congenital malformations and intellectual disability, and GENTURIS for genetic tumor risk syndromes. Other ERNs will join the project in the months to come.

The SOLVE-RD project website

Download the press release

The SOLVE-RD Member Inserm Teams

Inserm Unit US14 Information and service platform for rare diseases and orphan drugs (Orphanet)

Contribution: description of profiles of patients suffering from unnamed rare diseases

Inserm Unit 1127 Brain and Spine Institute (ICM)

Contribution: ERN-RND

Inserm Unit 974 Myology Center for Research (CRM)

Contribution: ERN-EURO-NMD

View Inserm’s latest press releases on rare diseases:

Tuesday May 23: European Obesity Day



Obesity is an excess of body fat that leads to health problems – principally type 2 diabetes and hypertension, and reduces life expectancy.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines obesity as ”abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health”.

According to WHO, 13% of adults worldwide were obese in 2014, a figure that had doubled since 1980.

Obesity is often diagnosed using the body mass index (BMI), a calculation that estimates a person’s body fat. BMI is a person’s weight (in kg) divided by the square of his or her height (in meters).

Supported by Inserm and the French national health insurance fund for salaried workers (Cnamts), the Constances cohort collates health data on more than 110,000 French people. According to initial estimates published in the French National Public Health Agency’s weekly epidemiological bulletin, nearly one in two French people are thought to be overweight and overall obesity (defined as a BMI greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2) is thought to be close to 16%.

“L’excès de poids des Français confirmé par la cohorte Constance”, published October 25, 2016.

This chronic condition not just leads to psychological and social discomfort but also health problems, principally type 2 diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.

To address this rising obesity in France, the country’s Public Health Agency requested that Inserm carry out a collective expert appraisal in order to take stock of the scientific knowledge and to analyze the impact of health messages disseminated by the mass media on cognition, attitudes, intentions and behaviors in relation to nutrition.

“Action on dietary behaviours, a collective expert review by Inserm”, published April 4, 2017.

It is not just the changes in our dietary habits but also our sedentary lifestyles and decreased physical activity that play an indisputable role in the development of obesity. The team of researchers from Inserm Unit 1153 (Université Denis Diderot/Université Paris Nord/French national institute for agricultural research (Inra)), in charge of following up more than 800 children (EDEN cohort), has demonstrated that the amount of time spent playing outdoors or watching TV during early childhood is already a predictor of obesity risk later in life.

“Obésité : dès 2 ans, l’activité physique et la sédentarité sont déterminantes”, published  January 24, 2017.

Researchers at Inserm have also revealed the role played by the environment in the development of this pathology, with notably the exposure to pollutants that is thought to promote the development of additional diseases in people who are obese.

“Organic pollutants and obesity are not a good combination”, published May 9, 2017.

Read the latest Inserm news in this category:

“L’environnement social associé à la masse corporelle des enfants”, published June 21, 2016.

“Ecouter sa faim peut aider à être mince”, published April 7, 2016.

Watch POM Bio à croquer “Obésité et complications”.

10th European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

Initiated by ECCA (European Cervical Cancer Association), this campaign, which will run from 24 to 30 January next, is aimed at raising awareness among the general public and health professionals about cervical cancer prevention and screening.


In France, this cancer affects nearly 3,000 women, and causes over 1,100 deaths each year.

There are two complementary levers for preventing and detecting the disease, the cervical smear test for women aged 25 to 65 years, and vaccination against HPV. According to the French National Cancer Institute (INCa), nearly 90% of cervical cancers could be prevented by carrying out cervical smear testing every three years.

Cervical cancer is mainly caused by a virus from the human papillomavirus (HPV) family, which is generally transmitted sexually. HPV 16 and 18 are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers.[2] In 10% of cases, the infection persists, and can cause lesions in the cervical mucosa that may progress to cancer.

Throughout the year, Inserm researchers are actively involved in research on cervical cancer.

One challenge for researchers is to understand how the human papillomavirus type 16 escapes the host immune response. It is against this background that the team led by Uzma Hasan at Inserm Unit 1111, “International Center for Infectiology Research” (CIRI), is examining the role of IL-1β, a cytokine that plays an essential role in the body’s inflammatory response to infections. According to their latest work, HPV 16 blocks the expression of IL-1β in cells.

Elsewhere, members of Inserm Unit 912, “Economy and Social Sciences, Health Care Systems and Societies” (SESSTIM), are interested in the perceptions and recommendations of general practitioners regarding vaccination against HPV in the context of a recent national survey. This survey shows that 72% of the physicians interviewed regularly recommend the anti-HPV vaccine. However, it emphasises that 60% of participants believe that the potential risks associated with the vaccine are still insufficiently known.

Seasonal influenza: launch of the 5th season of

Spread of influenza remains low in metropolitan France according to the weekly bulletin of 25/11/15 from the Sentinelles network, an information system based on a network of 1,300 general practitioners, with the incidence of influenza-illness estimated at 24 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, i.e. below the epidemic threshold (149 cases per 100,000 inhabitants).

Surveillance of the virus in metropolitan France continues nonetheless, with the launch of the fifth season of this Wednesday, 25 November. Originally launched in January 2012 by the Sentinelles network team (Inserm – UPMC) and the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (InVS), offers everyone living in metropolitan France, whatever his/her health status, a chance to participate in influenza surveillance anonymously and voluntarily via its website.

The data thus collected help to complement traditional surveillance systems, provide real-time information on the spread of influenza among the metropolitan population, and contribute to research aimed at achieving a better understanding of the epidemic. Over 6,000 citizens have become involved in since the project was launched, thus becoming actively involved in influenza research and surveillance in France and Europe.


Friday 5 June: World Environment Day

On 15 June 1972, the United Nations celebrated World Environment Day for the first time. Since that day, every year on the same date, the major issues in environmental conservation are given prominence in over 100 countries, a day devoted to the protection of the planet and the future of mankind, which is inseparable from the fate of the ecosystem.

At Inserm, active research is being devoted to understanding the impact of the environment on health, especially changes due to environmental contaminants such as pesticides, atmospheric pollution, radiation, etc.

In 2011 and 2013, the researchers at Inserm endeavoured to understand the influence of  pollution on general health and of environmental factors on reproduction, respectively, in two joint expert reports[1].

Today, many studies are devoted to this theme. The European project HELIX, which brings together experts from every background, is especially focused on exposome-related risk factors for children, i.e., the sum of environmental exposures from the antenatal period on. Pregnancy and the early years of life are well recognised as periods of high sensitivity to these factors, with lifelong consequences.As part of HELIX, Inserm Research Director Rémy Slama directs a working group that is attempting to determine the relationship between the exposome and child health. By establishing a database that includes all environmental pollutants, behaviours, diet and health outcomes, the researchers hope to establish the risk factors that lead to the development of diseases in children.

Cohorte couple-enfants SEPAGES

©Inserm/Delapierre, Patrick. All the photos of the SEPAGES cohort cohorte are available on the Inserm image bank Serimedis

Latest Inserm actualities on this theme:

Air quality in nursing homes affecting lung health of residents – March 2015
Exposure of pregnant women to certain phenols may disrupt the growth of boys during foetal development and the first years of life – September 2014

[1] See the joint expert reports “Reproduction et Environnement” (Reproduction and Environment) and “Pesticides: Effets sur la Santé” (Pesticides: Effects on Health) on the website.

Solar eclipse on 20 March: dangers for the retina

On Friday 20 March 2015, a partial eclipse of the sun will be visible in France between 9:00 and 12:00 am, depending on the place of observation. Why is looking directly at the sun dangerous and a cause of irreversible damage to the retina? Inserm researchers who are specialists at the Vision Institute (Inserm/CNRS/UPMC) can answer your questions.

The French Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research (MENESR) recalls the eye hazards involved in directly observing of the sun. There are two types:

–    corneal, keratitis-type lesions, essentially associated with ultraviolet rays, painful but reversible in a few days;

–    retinal burn-type lesions associated with the thermal effect of solar radiation and a photochemical effect on the particularly delicate cells of the retina. These lesions can cause permanent damage to the sight.

The French Directorate General of Health recommends that people who want to safely observe the partial eclipse of the sun on 20 March 2015 take proper protective measures for directly observing the sun.

Juno : the secret of the egg finally revealed

After a decade of research, a team of researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has identified Juno, a protein located on the membrane of the egg cell that enables the sperm cell to recognise it. Its presence, and that of Izumo (its counterpart on the sperm cell), is essential for fertilisation. Fusion of the egg and sperm, and subsequent formation of the embryo depend on the interactions of these proteins.

This work, published on Wednesday 16 April in the journal Nature, may contribute to improved treatments for infertility and the development of new contraceptives.

Researchers at Inserm will be pleased to answer any questions you may have about this discovery (see “Investigator contact”).

Development of a bioartificial pancreas

European consortium BIOSID have developed a bioartificial pancreas that can directly produce insulin in the bodies of patients with type 1 diabetes, which should be tested in humans by 2015. Trials will be conducted by the team led by Eric Renard, a researcher at Inserm Unit 661, “Institute for Functional Genomics,” at Montpellier University Hospital, and by the University of Oxford.