Exploding population demands drastic changes in nutrition science

Tuesday, 15 September, 2015

Nutrition science will have to change drastically to feed an exploding world population. That’s the message from an international team of researchers who are exploring ways to close the significant gap between the amount of food available today and the amount projected to be available in 2050.

According to the World Resources Institute, crop calories will need to increase about 69% to reach levels needed by 2050. To achieve this, the researchers — hailing from diverse disciplines including genetics, neuroscience, nutritional science, physiology, immunology, food science technology and psychology — have identified key opportunities taking place in nutrition science.

Writing in the open-access journal Frontiers in Nutrition, the researchers have reached out to the scientific community with an ambitious set of research goals for nutrition science for the period of 2015 to 2020.

The authors stress the importance and timeliness of eight axes of research including sustainability, food safety, the human microbiome and big data analysis.

“Healthy nutrition for all is an ambition too important to be handled by detached interest groups,” said Johannes le Coutre, head of perception physiology at the Nestlé Research Center and Field Chief Editor of Frontiers in Nutrition. “By bringing together this diverse set of experts, we are trying to establish a platform that is asking the right questions to move the nutrition field forward.”

Josep Bassaganya-Riera, a professor and director at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute’s Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory, said the article provides concrete recommendations for assessing issues at the macro level, such as the application of informatics, data analytics and modelling approaches.

“Embracing big data and computer modelling gives us a set of tools to identify nutritional benefits that are only observable in the interactions between multiple systems,” Bassaganya-Riera said.

The article’s contributors say they aim to provoke discussion among their peers about how to improve nutrition as a science, allowing it to make meaningful, sustainable contributions to global nutrition.

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