The field of human nutrition is benefiting from innovation and convergence across many branches of medicine, biology, chemistry and agricultural science.
Broadly speaking, nutrition has two main aspects: quality and quantity. To remain healthy, we need not only to eat high-quality, nutritious foods, we need to eat them in the right quantities and ratios.
Most nations, including Australia, produce dietary guidelines, and there is general agreement internationally about the essentials of a healthy diet. There continues, however, to be much confusion and argument surrounding the details of diet.
On the one hand, what exactly is 'unhealthy' food, and what should society permit or not permit with regard to the manufacture and marketing of 'unhealthy' food products?
Perhaps equally confusing is the booming market for 'organic', 'health' and 'super foods': are these products really that much better than a normally priced ''2 + 5''? How can we be sure that these foods have the beneficial properties the marketing spiels claim they do?
Taking a purely scientific approach to nutrition is complicated by the wide variation within food types, in human physiology and lifestyle, and by the various cultural, social and commercial pressures that influence food preferences. New monitoring and measurement technologies, however, are making it easier to collect the data that is needed to derive more objective findings regarding the nutritional properties of specific foods and the health outcomes of different patterns of consumption.
Key areas of innovation include:
- biochemical 'fingerprinting' of the nutritional properties of foods, and sensors that make it possible the assess the actual properties of foodstuffs,
- more precise tools and methods by which to further our understanding pf how production processes and additives affect nutritional properties,
- breeding new varieties of plants and animals with enhanced nutritional properties,
- developments in preventative medicine and greater scientific knowledge of the ways in which good nutrition supports health in the long term,
- digital technologies that make nutritional information more accessible to consumers, and
- drawing on the above, public programs aimed at addressing the obesity epidemic and malnutrition in developed nations.