By 2050 almost ten billion people will live on this planet; in Europe it will be 500 million people. In 2016, the European Commission together with more than 60 experts developed different scenarios how to make our food system robust for the year 2050 – depending on the climatic and political developments. While one might think the key element to this is ensuring food production in 2050, the critical key elements of our future development ensuring health and well-being are food safety and nutrition. Nutrition and its science is a fascinating field, which I have loved for more than 20 years when I decided to study nutrition. Today nutrition science and its experts are key to building a healthy and sustainable future.
Three reasons why nutrition science and nutrition scientists are the key to a healthy and sustainable future
1. NUTRITION SCIENCE SAVES LIVES
During the last couple of years something happened, nutrition experts have been fighting for since decades: Consumers are aware that investing in a healthy diet, their nutritional status and well-being will reduce the risk factors for early death. According to THE LANCET an unhealthy diet is the second highest risk factor for an early death after smoking. Health and a balanced diet are inextricably linked, meaning consuming the right nutrients is the best basis for a healthy and long life. Even now during the corona pandemic, scientsits have indentified diet-related indicators associated with a higher probability of COVID-19 mortality such as obesity. Note: This data is still preliminary and has not yet passed a peer-review process, meaning that this information is not yet evidence-based.
2. NUTRITION SCIENCE IS A START-UP IN ITS SCALE-UP PHASE
In the year 1930, 25 peer-reviewed publications with the word “nutrition” in the title/abstract were published according to PubMed. In 2018 it's been almost 13,000 publications in this category. Nutrition science is just starting up.
200 years ago, the chemical revolution enabled researchers to examine the function of calories in a quantitative, scientific way. It was the begin of nutrition sciences. 100 years ago, researchers discovered vitamins and minerals as well as their essential role in maintaining health. The research was based on observational studies: For example observing the bleeding mouths of sailors and identifying that they were lacking vitamin C in their diet. The young science was driven by deficiency studies until – after World War II – due to the economic development human mankind had access to (processed) food without restriction. Nutrition Science had to change its research approach and find new ways to examine non-communicable diseases. It is only since the 1990s that new types of studies were used and completed (cohort studies, clinical trials and genetic consortiums), and that nutrition scientists revealed contradictory results. Yes, contradictory results are a “normal” process in science. It is the job of scientists to advance our knowledge and gain insights. Often it takes years to be clear on a scientific question. COVID-19 is a good example for various questions we expect to get answers from science. But science needs time to carry out reproducible experiments leading to results that serve a community, nation or the world’s population. In the next decade digital technologies will provide us with data to gain deep insights in an individual’s body. With this the body of evidence nutrition will increase further.
3. NUTRITION SCIENCE IS A FASCINATING AND MULTIDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE
Nutrition science is not about food or eating, nutrition science examines the world from a medical, economic and social perspective. It covers eight fields which are essential for the planet’s future:
Legislation and Macroeconomics
And just recently, informatics has been considered as an essential field in nutrition science: The University of Kiel launched a new chair in Nutriinformatics. Nutrition Science tackles one of the biggest challenges in 2050: Feeding the world’s population in a way that we are well-nourished and our planet is not destroyed. With scientists and innovators working closer together than ever, we are entering a new era of nutrition. Merging nutrition and technology brings up nutrition solutions that are affordable and help people to make better food choices. The perfect playground for young, well-educated nutrition experts. Even Peter Thiel, the German-born Silicon Valley investor, wrote in his book ZERO TO ONE about entrepreneurship, published in 2015: "The best place to look for secrets is where no one else is looking. What about something like nutrition?"
Today we experience that not only nutrition experts, but also politicians and industry become more and more aware of the urgent need for smart innovations in the nutrition sector. We begin to understand:
Nutrition science is undoubtedly the key science to achieve a world, where everyone has access to safe and nutrient-rich food. A world, in which each individual can make well-educated and sustainable food choices.
I am proud to be a nutrition expert and proud to contribute with my knowledge and network to a brighter future. You, me and together with all the others we can achieve that goal.
Nutrition science, I adore you and I always will. <3
This article was written by Dr. Simone K. Frey.