Beyond Nutrition – can we ensure sustainability?

The 2019 Nutrition Society of New Zealand Conference was hosted by the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) on 28th and 29th November, at their campus in Taradale, Napier, with over 130 delegates. This year is the 54th Annual meeting and the theme, Beyond Nutrition – Kei tua I te kaitōtika, recognising nutrition science complements a wide range of disciplines in research, and is an integral part of public health frameworks. There was a comprehensive conference programme engaging a broad range of researchers and practitioners involved in nutrition.

Fonterra Chief Science and Technology Officer, Jeremy Hill in his capacity as Adjunct Professor Sustainable Nutrition for the Riddet Institute, addressed issues related to nutritious diets and food sustainability that are plant-based and animal-optimised. He discussed the challenges to modify the complex global food production system and identify opportunities for improvement. Professor Hill argued this requires a comprehensive view, including its socio-economic and environmental dimensions, and be able to deliver the bioavailable nutrients needed by the global population in the future. To that end, the Riddet Institute and collaborators have produced the Delta Model (built in R, a programming language designed in New Zealand). Using FAO and USDA databases from 2018, the model combines data on food production, food waste and non-food uses, food composition and bioavailability, with population demographics and minimum nutrient requirements.  The Model aims to generate informed discussions, rather than concrete answers, generating a wide range of possible scenarios to explore and expand thinking.

Associate Professor Miranda Mirosa from the University of Otago talked about the shocking statistics of New Zealand’s food waste issue and possible ways to take action. Also from the University of Otago, Associate Professor Anne-Louise Health’s presentation promoted discussion on baby-led weaning. Representing the Heart Foundation of New Zealand, Sue Pirrit and Takui Langi examined nutrition and health through a Pacific cultural lens. Mikki Williden (Unitec) presented on lower carbohydrate diets for athletes, while Dr Ian Zajac (CSIRO, Canberra) shared his expertise in nutrition and cognition. The conference also featured the annual Muriel Bell (4/1/1898-2/5/74) open public lecture by Professor Jane Coad from Massey University, who explored the history of nutrition in New Zealand. She talked about how the past could offer lessons for the present, and importantly guidance for the future.

“The conference is a unique gathering of nutrition science experts. It’s a wonderful opportunity to discuss hot topics such as sustainability, food waste, mental health and weight stigma to name a few,” says registered nutritionist and conference co-chair Fiona Windle. “The diversity of subjects reflects how nutrition is far reaching across health and well-being, hence the conference theme, Beyond Nutrition – Kei tua I te kaitōtika,” says Fiona.

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