Turning over a new leaf’ - on display at Imperial War Museum's Ministry of Food exhibition. ©Imperial War Museum.
Professor John Waterlow FRS
University of London and patron of Association for Nutrition
What is nutrition?
‘Nutrition’ covers the science of how people get the calories and nutrients they need, and how they use them to grow and function normally, as well as the practical application of this knowledge. It also covers food’s social significance, as well as how it interacts with our bodies.
One in five adults is now so overweight that they are at risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The major reason for this is what they eat - and have eaten as children and teens - not their genes. At the same time, some types of people - older people or young girls - are at risk of not getting enough of some nutrients. Good nutrition and being active also have a positive impact on mental wellbeing.
What is the role of Government?
Governments have sometimes been very active in managing a nation’s diet - take World War Two, where despite shortages, Britain’s health improved after policies were implemented to ensure everybody had enough food in the right mix.
Governments can make a difference by promoting lifestyle changes and healthy eating. Governments should also encourage recognition of professional nutritionists who meet appropriate standards.
What is the ideal diet?
There is no single ideal diet – the amount of calories and nutrients that people need depends on many factors such as their size, age and activity levels.
The more physically active a person is, the more calories they burn. Most of us are not very active at work or in the home, so the food we eat needs to pack all the nutrients into fewer calories – hence the emphasis on eating plenty of plant foods and lean meat instead of foods high in fat or sugar.
The Association for Nutrition has recently been established to regulate the nutrition profession and promote good practice – it is not affiliated to the Royal Society. For more details, please visit: www.associationfornutrition.org