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IFST Spring Conference 2019

IFST Spring Conference 2019 - review

With the intriguing title Nutritional Science Over Gut Feel, IFST Spring Conference (SC19) took place on 4 April 2019 at the University of Birmingham. Sterling Crew reveals the highlights.

This year’s conference focused on the topic of nutrition and addressed the important interface between human nutrition and food science and technology. It highlighted the very latest scientific and technological solutions that are being developed and implemented to start to tackle our big nutritional challenges. The importance of this area was reflected in the record number of attendees at the conference. Nutrition has become a key element in the food science and technology zeitgeist.

The event was opened by our President, David Gregory, and chaired by Professor Judith Buttriss, Director General of the British Nutrition Foundation, who set the scene for the day. She emphasised the need for providing targeted advice on nutrition and the application of science to develop nutrition policy. She called for a balanced message on the challenges for public health nutrition and gave an insightful overview into the nation’s diet.

The first session of the day, Tackling the nutritional challenges, started with Dr Petra Klassen- Wigger (Nestlé Research), who spoke on Emerging science and innovation: the impact on food consumption and dietary patterns. She highlighted the strategic evolution of Nestlé’s nutrient profile system, impact analysis and the socio-demographic trends influencing food demand. Petra covered some of the megatrends in nutritional science, such as personal diets and food microbiota, and looked at how consumers are moving from basic nutrition to functional benefits, such as gut health, and how health and wellness has become an important driver for consumer food choice. This provides an opportunity to improve diet towards recommended intakes. She gave some excellent examples of the practicalities of reducing fat and sugar and the challenges of fortification.

Judith Robinson of Tesco gave a great insight into The challenges of making it easier for consumers to make healthier choices. She stressed that it is crucial to understand customers and the nudges that encourage them to move towards healthier choices. There have been positive moves towards healthy options within Tesco categories through reformulation and portion control.

Professor Jeff Brunstrom (University of Bristol) delivered a presentation entitled Mind over platter: what can psychology tell us about consumer behaviour and looked at how to encourage people to make healthier choices. He explained how self-control in decision making involves modulation of the vmPFC validation system and how we can use the science of psychology to help drive positive sustainable changes in dietary behaviour.

The second session moved onto Gut reaction and implications for future foods. Professor John Mathers (Newcastle University) addressed Genetic influence on weight loss – opportunities for personalisation. He reflected on the relationships between genotypes and weight, concluding that genotype is not an impediment to losing weight. He suggested that genes relating to attention, memory and reward motivation behaviour could be relevant to weight loss, reiterating how sustained weight loss can lead to remission of type 2 diabetes.

Dr Maria Traka (Quadram Institute) spoke on Personalised nutrition and the gut microbiome: opportunities and challenges. She discussed the diverse and dynamic gut microbiota communites within individuals using taxonomic and functional information and addressed the molecular mechanisms of disease prevention by complex diets.

The final morning session, entitled Gene-edited food-making history or repeating it? moved on to GM and gene-editing. Professor Johnathan Napier (Rothamsted Research) eloquently explained the difference between the two and how the European Union has categorised gene-editing legally as a form of GM.

He explained his role in running the only GM field trials in the UK, evaluating the performance of oilseeds engineered to accumulate omega-3 fish oils. Johnathan also addressed the potential future opportunities for gene-editing and the possibility for removing the allergenic agent from peanuts. Professor John Dupré (University of Exeter) discussed the bioethics of working on genome-editing of farm animals and the challenging ethical issues that it raised.

The afternoon’s first session moved on to Tackling the challenges of specialist diets with Professor Lisa Methven (University of Reading) looking at Developing foods for an ageing population. She explained individual differences in sensory perception of foods by the elderly and the associations with food choices and dietary intake. Lisa stressed the importance of improving the palatability of food designed to meet older people’s nutritional needs and highlighted the need for product reformulation and fortification. The loss of taste in the elderly could lead to poor nutrition due to loss of appetite.

Professor Helen Griffiths (University of Surrey) expanded on the theme by looking at Personalised nutrition for the silver economy. She analysed the changing European and UK age demographic and the challenges of mortality and health driven by diet. Helen made a powerful argument for personalised nutrition and dietary intervention to reduce mortality rates in older adults.

Lucinda Bruce-Gardyner (Genius Foods) presented a talk on A gluten free – nutritionally rich creative journey. Lucinda shared her personal and inspiring entrepreneurial story and her breakthrough when trying to help one of her sons who was diagnosed as gluten intolerant. She developed a gluten-free loaf equivalent to a wheat bread and explained how perseverance and consumer demand has driven the company’s success.

The final afternoon session looked at Nutritional science and technology solutions with Dr Rob Winwood (DSM Nutritional Products.) focusing on New technologies to improve the micronutrient status of targeted populations. Rob explained how it is increasingly recognised that the optimal intake of many micronutrients is not being achieved and how an individual’s micronutrient needs depend on their genotype. He described sophisticated, wearable, activity measurement devices that can provide detailed personal information for specific nutrient interventions.

Sandrine Pigat (Creme Global) gave the final informative presentation on Using data and predictive models for new product development to assess safety, shelf life and health benefits. Sandrine explained how big data and data modelling is used for making informed decisions in new product development, business strategy and consumer health and safety.

The Chair, Judith Buttriss, concluded the enjoyable and informative day by providing a useful roundup of the topics, reiterating the important need for our nutritional choices to be based on sound evidence-based science.

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