The days of the one-size-fits-all nutrition guidelines are numbered. Instead, scientists are exploring an array of new approaches to healthy eating that aim to prevent or even treat disease based on each person’s unique profile.
Chronic preventable diseases that can be related to diet, such as cardiovascular illness, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, are the top cause of death worldwide, accounting for 60 percent of all deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). These noncommunicable diseases kill 38 million people annually, nearly three-quarters of them in low- and middle-income countries. Nutrition scientists are working to understand the crucial interactions between food and the human body in order to develop more individualized, targeted dietary guidelines and therapeutic options, according to the latest series of interviews from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) FutureFood 2050 publishing initiative. FutureFood 2050 explores how increasingly sophisticated science and technology will help feed the world’s projected 9 billion-plus people in 2050.
Current dietary guidelines are determined by a “consensus [that] has to do with the average person, who is of average weight and who’s healthy, and is either a man or woman of a particular age,” says Jeffrey Blumberg, who directs the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. “All 30-year-old women do not require, in my view, exactly 75 milligrams of vitamin C a day to meet their vitamin C requirements. Some may need less. Some may need more. How do you know who you are unless you start to apply some newer approaches?”
Nutrition science leaders talked to FutureFood 2050 this month about the innovations they see as most promising for improving our diets and helping to fight disease:
- Jeffrey Blumberg: Tufts University nutrition scientist who says dietary guidance targeted to your precise genetic makeup is the wave of the future
- Mark Heiman: Chief scientific officer of MicroBiome Therapeutics, which is developing health-boosting nutritional therapies that increase the variety of gut microorganisms
- Dr. Dean Ornish: Creator of a renowned program for reversing cardiac disease, who believes dietary changes will continue to be key to a healthy heart
- Steven Schwartz: Ohio State University food scientist working on functional food products to help prevent cancer and other illnesses
- Robert Zeigler: Director general of the International Rice Research Institute, which is coordinating the Golden Rice project designed to raise vitamin A levels in developing nations
FutureFood 2050 is a multi-year program highlighting the people and stories leading the efforts in finding solutions to a healthier, safer and better nourished planet to feed 9 billion-plus people by 2050. Through 2015, the program will release 75 interviews with the world’s most impactful leaders in food and science. The interviews with nutrition innovation leaders are the 14th installment of FutureFood’s interview series, following sustainability, women in food science, food waste, food security and nutrition in Africa, aquaculture, futurists on food, innovative agriculture Parts 1 and 2, kitchens of the future, obesity, alternative proteins, food safety, and climate change.
Early next year, FutureFood 2050 will also debut a documentary film exploring how the science of food will contribute solutions to feeding the world. Here’s a behind-the-scenes interview with the film’s director.
For more information, please visit FutureFood2050.com to subscribe to monthly updates, learn more about the project and read the latest news on food science.