13th-14th November 2009, London
The 10th National Nutrition and Health Conference took place at the Olympia Conference Centre in Kensington Olympia from Thursday 12th November until Friday 13th November. The conference consisted of a number of sessions on a wide range of topics.
The programme for day 1 was entitled ‘Changing behaviour and lives: strategies for success.’ The day commenced with a presentation from Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, director of public health for Southwark, London, entitled ‘Behaving well? Have 10 years of carrot sticks and nudges improved the nations health?’ He highlighted the overweight and obesity epidemic which is a particular problem in children and drew attention to the ‘big killers’ linked with obesity. He explained that the rising trends of obesity in children are levelling off and that encouragingly there is also a downward trend in levels of diseases associated with obesity such as heart disease. Prof. Maryon-Davis briefly mentioned various guidelines and strategies to tackle the obesity problem such as the ‘NICE (The National Institute for Clinical Excellence) guidelines and recommendations for weight management and cardiovascular disease (CVD)’, the ‘Change 4 life’ government programme and front of pack labelling. He finished by giving a view of the next decade, which should see activity levels increasing and health playing a greater role in food choice.
Alette Addison of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) gave a presentation on ‘Lessons from the FSA Healthy Eating Campaigns – Low salt and low saturated fat’. She explained that the low salt campaign was split into 4 phases, the first being one to raise awareness of high salt intakes and the consequences, using a character ‘Sid the Slug’. She explained that salt reducing targets have now been set for the food industry, with the next review in 2011. She highlighted data showing that since the start of the campaign average salt intakes have reduced by 0.9grams.
Alette then focused on the low saturated fat campaign, explaining that the campaign is also split into 4 phases with only the first stage (raising awareness stage) complete. Recommendations have been made to the industry for saturated fat reduction, which are now going to public consultation. Alete mentioned that the dairy industry has already made changes, with the introduction of 1% fat milk and cheeses which are 30% less fat. She mentioned that the campaign will focus on 1% fat milk in January 2010, with the aim of getting the population to switch from semi-skimmed milk to 1% fat milk.
The lunchtime workshop saw interesting discussions around two questions ‘Can certain natural foods really keep disease at bay?’ and ‘Should foods with naturally occurring benefits be recommended as a first line of defence by health professionals?’ This session focused on the role of cranberries in preventive health, with the main focus being urinary tract infections (UTIs). The session was chaired by Dr Margaret Ashwell of Ashwell Associates and the panel included Fiona Hunter, a highly respected and experienced nutritionist and food writer and Dr Amy Howell of Rutgers University, US. Dr Howell presented the wealth of scientific evidence available on cranberries and preventive health. In addressing the above questions Fiona stated that she would recommended a food for prevention of health problems as long as there is sufficient scientific evidence to support what is being claimed, the food is safe and affordable and that it is easy to incorporate into the diet.
The afternoon saw a session from Professor Paul Gately of Leeds Metropolitan University on the Carnegie weight loss camps, set up to target obesity amongst children and their families. Dr Cliona Ni Mhurchu of the MRC Human Nutrition Research in Cambridge presented on the role of financial incentives in changing dietary behaviour, as there has been emerging research to suggest that financial incentives impact positively on general health and dietary-related behaviour. Following on from this Dr Russell Jago, of the University of Bristol presented on how parents, homes and friends influence children’s energy balance behaviours.
Professor David Jenkins gave a presentation entitled ‘More plant based eating for better health including body weight?’ During his presentation he summarised the findings of an intervention study that found that a high protein vegan diet had a positive effect on body weight and low density lipoproteins compared to a high animal protein diet.
Among the final presentations Dr Margaret Ashwell presented on a systematic review showing the superiority of the waist to height ratio over waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) in predicting metabolic risk.
The programme for Day 2 was entitled ‘Hot nutrition topics & emerging science’ and included a morning workshop run by Mr Roy Ballam, education programme manager. Roy gave an overview of what is happening with food and nutrition education in schools. He summarised the curriculum in which food education is steadily becoming compulsory. He briefly explained three projects that the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) are involved in, funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families aimed at increasing schools’ capacity to deliver food and nutrition education and food technology. These projects are: 1) Food in Schools, 2) License to Cook 3) Teach Food Technology. Roy also gave an update of the latest BNF resources that support food and nutrition education throughout the UK and an overview of the new FSA resources to support learning about diet and health.
During the morning sessions Mary Feeney, clinical research dietitian, presented on the LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) study. She gave the audience an overview of the current knowledge on the role of breastfeeding and the introduction of common food allergens in allergic sensitisation to foods and development of tolerance. She highlighted the recent change in guidelines for prevention of peanut allergy in infants because there is no clear evidence to say that peanut avoidance in pregnancy or early life will help to reduce the risk of a child developing a peanut allergy.
The afternoon sessions commenced with a presentation from Bridget Benelam, of the British Nutrition Foundation entitled ‘Feeling Fuller: The latest evidence’. She explained the concept of energy density, and that lower energy density diets tend to be more satiating, with studies showing that such diets can lower energy intakes and body weight.
The next presentation was by Professor Ian Rowland of the University of Reading entitled ‘Probiotics – Scientifically proven or hocus pocus?’ He summarised the wide range of benefits that probiotics have to offer such as easing constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, reducing the duration and severity of infections and preventing and reducing the duration of infectious diarrhoea, however these benefits are strain specific and there some data are inconsistent.
Professor Margaret Rayman of the University of Surrey gave a presentation on diet and prostate cancer. She presented the set of evidence-based guidelines that herself and her research team have put together on how to eat to minimise the risk or spread of prostate cancer which are incorporated in ‘The Prostate Care Cookbook’. One of the recommendations is to consume no more than 1 pint (3 cups) of milk or equivalent dairy product daily.
As the conference was drawing to an end, Alison Shepherd, nurse tutor of Kings College London gave a very current and topical presentation on ‘The nutritional Management of the Credit Crunch’. She explained how the poorest families are struggling to feed themselves and their families in the UK and that there is emerging evidence of stunted growth in children. She provided practical tips that should be given to patients on how to eat well and stay healthy when managing a tight budget.