Advancing Food and Health: Insights from Dr. Hendrik De Ruyck

Hendrik Ruyck ILVO logo
Meet Dr. Hendrik De Ruyck, a bio-engineer specialising in Food Chemistry and Technology at the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture. This article delves into his role in Healthy Diet, Healthy Life (HDHL), Belgium's focus on food and health as it assumes the EU presidency, and key insights shaping the future of food and nutrition research. Dr. De Ruyck's work underscores the urgency of innovation and sustainable practices in achieving healthier diets and planetary well-being.


Dr. Hendrik De Ruyck, a seasoned bio-engineer specialising in Food Chemistry and Technology, boasts an impressive career in agricultural and food research. As a research group leader at the Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food (ILVO ), Dr. De Ruyck's expertise lies at the crucial intersection of food and health in today's evolving landscape of sustainable agriculture and nutrition science.

Reflecting on his involvement with HDHL, Dr. De Ruyck recalls his journey over a decade ago when he was called by Brussels-based Department of Economy, Science and Innovation (EWI) to get involved and represent Flanders in this European network. Since then, his commitment to advancing the goals of HDHL has only strengthened, aligning seamlessly with ILVO's mission to generate knowledge for sustainability across agriculture, fisheries, and agri-food sectors. 

Food and health in Belgium

As Belgium assumes the presidency of the Council of the EU, they have a strong focus on the realm of food and health. Dr. De Ruyck outlines his priorities with a clear vision for fostering innovation on a European scale. Central is the imperative to “make innovation executable in Europe”—a sentiment informed by his firsthand experiences navigating the labyrinth of rules, legislation, and bureaucratic hurdles. This is discussed at certain forums such as the Open Food Conference, where innovation, policymakers, and consumers come together to bridge the gap between scientific inquiry and policy implementation, a goal that HDHL is aligned with. Read more about the Open Food Conference here

Future opportunities

Looking ahead, Dr. De Ruyck highlights several key research topics that will shape the future of food and nutrition. “Research that enables a more diverse supply of safe and sustainably produced food is a key focus. Using our knowledge of the link between nutrition and health in animals we can better understand how we can boost our resilience to infectious and prosperity diseases through nutrition. For healthy food, we need raw materials with a wide range of nutritional properties. Raw materials are needed with even more desirable components”. Moreover, he underscores the urgent need to address the impacts of climate change on food production systems—a challenge that demands innovative solutions to ensure food security in the face of environmental uncertainty. 

Research that enables a more diverse supply of safe and sustainably produced food is a key focus.
Dr. Hendrik De Ruyck

Dr. De Ruyck's insights are grounded in the realities of today's rapidly changing food landscape. He points to emerging food safety issues as a direct consequence of these shifts, emphasising the importance of proactive measures to safeguard public health. An issue that HDHL also recognised and responded by launching a new joint funding activity in February 2023 “New food resources and technologies to improve public health and food security” (FOODRETEC ). FOODRETEC is aimed at contributing to the preparedness for a future with a higher global food demand on scarce resources through a focus on new food ingredients, new food or technologies and their contribution to healthy, sustainable diets. Important aspects to be addressed in this regard are safety, nutritional quality, digestibility, bioeconomic aspects, and consumer acceptance of new ingredients, food and framework conditions. 

Furthermore, his advocacy for healthy and sustainable dietary choices reflects his understanding of the interconnectedness between human well-being and planetary health. According to Dr. De Ruyck, we must make “sustainable and healthy food the easy (affordable) choice”—a perspective that resonates deeply within the scientific community. It was stressed in the EAT-Lancet Commission Summary Report that healthy food must be “available, accessible and affordable in place of unhealthier alternatives”, as well as tasty. 

Dr. De Ruyck's approach to a healthy diet and healthy life

Amidst his professional endeavors, Dr. De Ruyck maintains a strong commitment to personal well-being—an embodiment of his holistic approach to health. His advice to

eat varied but enjoy, and don't neglect the good things of life
Dr. Hendrik De Ruyck

reflects a balanced perspective that transcends mere dietary recommendations. Coupled with his dedication to physical activity, including his remarkable 150-kilometer weekly bicycle commute, Dr. De Ruyck embodies the principles of a healthy diet and healthy life. 

In conclusion, Dr. Hendrik De Ruyck plays a important role in the food and health domain, contributing expertise and leadership to HDHL. His commitment to bridging food and health research with policy and advocating for sustainable diets reflects a holistic approach to well-being. As a valued member of the HDHL Management Board and Steering Committee, his vision and dedication inspire innovation and healthier lifestyles.