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Maternal and child health are intrinsically linked. With accumulating evidence over the past two decades supporting the developmental origins of health and diseases hypothesis, it is now widely recognised that nutrition in the first 1000 d sets the foundation for long-term health. Maternal diet before, during and after pregnancy can influence the developmental pathways of the fetus and lead to health consequences later in life. While maternal and infant mortality rates have declined significantly in the past two decades, the growing burden of obesity and chronic non-communicable diseases in women of reproductive age and children is on a rapid rise worldwide, in developed and developing countries. A key contributory factor is malnutrition, which is a consequence of consuming poor quality diets. Suboptimal macronutrient balance and micronutrient inadequacies can lead to undesirable maternal body composition and metabolism, in turn influencing the health of the mother and leading to longer-term metabolic and cognitive health consequences in the infant. The GUSTO (Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes) study, a mother–offspring multi-ethnic cohort study in Singapore, has contributed to this body of evidence over the past 10 years. This review will illustrate how nutritional epidemiological research through a birth cohort has illuminated the importance and urgency of maternal and child nutrition and health in a modern, industrialised setting. It underscores the importance of a number of critical nutrients during pregnancy, in combination with healthy dietary patterns and appropriate meal timing, for optimal maternal and child health.
Vitamin D deficiency (25-hydroxyvitamin D; 25(OH)D) is at epidemic proportions in western dwelling South Asian populations, including severe deficiency (<12⋅5 nmol/l) in 27–60% of individuals, depending on season. The paper aimed to review the literature concerning vitamin D concentrations in this population group. Research from the UK and Europe suggests a high prevalence of South Asians with 25(OH)D concentration <25 nmol/l, with most having a 25(OH)D concentration of <50 nmol/l. In Canada, South Asians appear to have a slightly higher 25(OH)D concentration. There are few studies from the United States, South Africa and Australasia. Reasons for vitamin D deficiency include low vitamin D intake, relatively high adiposity, sun exposure avoidance and wearing of a covered dress style for cultural reasons. Possible health effects of deficiency include bone diseases such as rickets and hypocalcaemia in children and osteomalacia in adults. Vitamin D deficiency may also increase the risk of other chronic diseases. Increased fortification of food items relevant to South Asian groups (e.g. chapatti flour), as well as increased use of vitamin D supplements may help reduce this epidemic. Introducing culturally acceptable ways of increasing skin exposure to the sun in South Asian women may also be beneficial but further research is needed to assess the effectiveness of different approaches. There may be a need for a South Asian specific vitamin D dietary intake guideline in western countries. To conclude, vitamin D deficiency is epidemic in South Asians living in western countries and there is a clear need for urgent public health action.
Symposium 1A: Parental nutrition, epigenetic and metabolic disease susceptibility
Conference on ‘Malnutrition in an obese world: European perspectives’
Maternal obesity is a major risk factor for adverse health outcomes for both the mother and the child, including the serious public health problem of childhood obesity which is globally on the rise. Given the relatively intensive contact with health/care professionals following birth, the interpregnancy period provides a golden opportunity to focus on preconception and family health, and to introduce interventions that support mothers to achieve or maintain a healthy weight in preparation for their next pregnancy. In this review, we summarise the evidence on the association between interpregnancy weight gain with birth and obesity outcomes in the offspring. Gaining weight between pregnancies is associated with an increased risk of large-for-gestational age (LGA) birth, a predictor of childhood obesity, and weight loss between pregnancies in women with overweight or obesity seems protective against recurrent LGA. Interpregnancy weight loss seems to be negatively associated with birthweight. There is some suggestion that interpregnancy weight change may be associated with preterm birth, but the mechanisms are unclear and the direction depends if it is spontaneous or indicated. There is limited evidence on the direct positive link between maternal interpregnancy weight gain with gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension and obesity or overweight in childhood, with no studies using adult offspring adiposity outcomes. Improving preconception health and optimising weight before pregnancy could contribute to tackling the rise in childhood obesity. Research testing the feasibility, acceptability and effectiveness of interventions to optimise maternal weight and health during this period is needed, particularly in high-risk and disadvantaged groups.
Stress and other negative emotions, such as depression and anxiety, can lead to both decreased and increased food intake. The term ‘emotional eating’ has been widely used to refer to the latter response: a tendency to eat in response to negative emotions with the chosen foods being primarily energy-dense and palatable ones. Emotional eating can be caused by various mechanisms, such as using eating to cope with negative emotions or confusing internal states of hunger and satiety with physiological changes related to emotions. An increasing number of prospective studies have shown that emotional eating predicts subsequent weight gain in adults. This review discusses particularly three lines of research on emotional eating and obesity in adults. First, studies implying that emotional eating may be one behavioural mechanism linking depression and development of obesity. Secondly, studies highlighting the relevance of night sleep duration by showing that adults with a combination of shorter sleep and higher emotional eating may be especially vulnerable to weight gain. Thirdly, an emerging literature suggesting that genes may influence body weight partly through emotional eating and other eating behaviour dimensions. The review concludes by discussing what kind of implications these three avenues of research offer for obesity prevention and treatment interventions.
Emotional eating has traditionally been defined as (over)eating in response to negative emotions. Such overeating can impact general health because of excess energy intake and mental health, due to the risks of developing binge eating. Yet, there is still significant controversy on the validity of the emotional eating concept and several theories compete in explaining its mechanisms. The present paper examines the emotional eating construct by reviewing and integrating recent evidence from psychometric, experimental and naturalistic research. Several psychometric questionnaires are available and some suggest that emotions differ fundamentally in how they affect eating (i.e. overeating, undereating). However, the general validity of such questionnaires in predicting actual food intake in experimental studies is questioned and other eating styles such as restrained eating seem to be better predictors of increased food intake under negative emotions. Also, naturalistic studies, involving the repeated assessment of momentary emotions and eating behaviour in daily life, are split between studies supporting and studies contradicting emotional eating in healthy individuals. Individuals with clinical forms of overeating (i.e. binge eating) consistently show positive relationships between negative emotions and eating in daily life. We will conclude with a summary of the controversies around the emotional eating construct and provide recommendations for future research and treatment development.
Symposium 2A: The role of ‘big data’ in nutrition research
Conference on ‘Malnutrition in an obese world: European perspectives’
Advances in genomics generated the concept that a better understanding of individual characteristics, e.g. genotype, will lead to improved tailoring of pharmaceutical and nutritional therapies. Subsequent developments in proteomics and metabolomics, in addition to wearable technologies for tracking parameters, such as dietary intakes, physical activity, heart rate and blood glucose, have further driven this idea. Alongside these innovations, there has been a rapid rise in companies offering direct-to-consumer genetic and/or microbiome testing, in combination with the marketing of personalised nutrition services. Key scientific questions include how disparate datasets are integrated, how accurate are current predictions and how these may be developed in the future. In this regard, lessons can be learned from systems biology, which aims both to integrate data from different levels of organisation (e.g. genomic, proteomic and metabolomic) and predict the emergent behaviours of biological systems or organisms as a whole. The present paper reviews the origins and recent advancement of ‘big data’ and systems approaches in medicine and nutrition. Conclusions are that systems integration of multiple technologies has generated mechanistic insights and informed the evolution of precision medicine and personalised nutrition. Pertinent ethical issues include who is entitled to access new technologies and how commercial companies are storing, using and/or re-mining consumer data. Questions about efficacy (both long-term behavioural change and health outcomes), cost-benefit and impacts on health inequalities remain to be fully addressed.
International Early Career Nutrition Research Championship
Conference on ‘Malnutrition in an obese world: European perspectives’
We conducted a narrative review on the interaction between dietary patterns with demographic and lifestyle variables in relation to health status assessment. The food pattern has the advantage of taking into account the correlations that may exist between foods or groups of foods, but also between nutrients. It is an alternative and complementary approach in analysing the relationship between nutrition and the risk of chronic diseases. For the determination of dietary patterns one can use indices/scores that evaluate the conformity of the diet with the nutrition guidelines or the established patterns (a priori approach). The methods more commonly used are based on exploratory data (a posteriori): cluster analysis and factor analysis. Dietary patterns may vary according to sex, socio-economic status, ethnicity, culture and other factors, but more, they may vary depending on different associations between these factors. The dietary pattern exerts its effects on health in a synergistic way or even in conjunction with other lifestyle factors, and we can therefore refer to a ‘pattern of lifestyle’.
Sex and gender are important factors that impact cardiometabolic traits. Men have lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of fatal chronic conditions at younger age. Lifestyle risk profiles in young men have been rarely studied in the context of cardiometabolic health. This review aimed to summarise the evidence regarding the patterns of dietary-lifestyle behaviours in a population of young men (age <40years) and their associations with cardiometabolic health. Overall, unfavourable clusters of health behaviours are more prominent in men, when compared to women and more prevalent in younger adults, when compared to older age groups. Early signs of cardiometabolic health abnormalities have been reported among men with higher adherence to patterns which consistently shared poor dietary habits as a common denominator, combined with stimulant use, inadequate sleep or insufficient physical activity. In the majority of studies, dietary assessment was limited to the investigation of one or two behaviours, most frequently fruit and vegetable intake. Since young men may engage in a mixture of explicit behaviours, the examination of a singular dietary habit may not represent the overall diet quality. To conclude, the data regarding the synergistic effects of a broad spectrum of dietary and lifestyle behaviours in the context of cardiometabolic health remain scarce in this population. The inclusion of a broader range of dietary and lifestyle variables into the multicomponent pattern analysis might have a greater potential in explaining the association with cardiometabolic health. Defining behavioural clusters can help to develop interventions, tailored to the specific needs of the targeted group.
Conference on ‘Malnutrition in an obese world: European perspectives’
Lifestyle intervention may be effective in reducing type 2 diabetes mellitus incidence and cardiometabolic risk. A more personalised nutritional approach based on an individual or subgroup-based metabolic profile may optimise intervention outcome. Whole body insulin resistance (IR) reflects defective insulin action in tissues such as muscle, liver, adipose tissue, gut and brain, which may precede the development of cardiometabolic diseases. IR may develop in different organs but the severity may vary between organs. Individuals with more pronounced hepatic IR have a distinct plasma metabolome and lipidome profile as compared with individuals with more pronounced muscle IR. Additionally, genes related to extracellular modelling were upregulated in abdominal subcutaneous adipose tissue in individuals with more pronounced hepatic IR, whilst genes related to inflammation as well as systemic low-grade inflammation were upregulated in individuals with primarily muscle IR. There are indications that these distinct IR phenotypes may also respond differentially to dietary macronutrient composition. Besides metabolic phenotype, microbial phenotype may be of importance in personalising the response to diet. In particular fibres or fibre mixtures, leading to a high distal acetate and SCFA production may have more pronounced effects on metabolic health. Notably, individuals with prediabetes may have a reduced response to diet-induced microbiota modulation with respect to host insulin sensitivity and metabolic health outcomes. Overall, we need more research to relate metabolic subphenotypes to intervention outcomes to define more optimal diets for individuals with or predisposed to chronic metabolic diseases.
Excessive adipose accumulation, which is the main driver for the development of secondary metabolic complications, has reached epidemic proportions and combined pharmaceutical, educational and nutritional approaches are required to reverse the current rise in global obesity prevalence rates. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is a unique organ able to dissipate energy and thus a promising target to enhance BMR to counteract a positive energy balance. In addition, active BAT might support body weight maintenance after weight loss to prevent/reduce relapse. Natural products deliver valuable bioactive compounds that have historically helped to alleviate disease symptoms. Interest in recent years has focused on identifying nutritional constituents that are able to induce BAT activity and thereby enhance energy expenditure. This review provides a summary of selected dietary phytochemicals, including isoflavones, catechins, stilbenes, the flavonoids quercetin, luteolin and resveratrol as well as the alkaloids berberine and capsaicin. Most of the discussed phytochemicals act through distinct molecular pathways e.g. sympathetic nerve activation, AMP-kinase signalling, SIRT1 activity or stimulation of oestrogen receptors. Thus, it might be possible to utilise this multitude of pathways to co-activate BAT using a fine-tuned combination of foods or combined nutritional supplements.
This review seeks to synthesise our knowledge about changes in hunger and satiety that occur during diet-induced weight loss and during weight loss maintenance, with a particular focus on youth with obesity. Mechanisms of appetite responses to weight loss rely heavily on the adult literature. Physiological mechanisms that control appetite and satiety via the gut–brain axis have been elucidated but we have an incomplete picture of changes in gut hormones and peptides in youth with obesity. In adolescents, the role of the brain in long-term sensing of body composition and modifying appetite and satiety changes is easily over-ridden by hedonic influences for the reward of highly palatable sweet foods and encourages over-consumption. Accordingly, reward cues and hyper-responsiveness to palatable foods lead to a pattern of food choices. Different reward systems are necessary that are substantial enough to reward the continued individual effort required to sustain new behaviours, that need to be adopted to support a reduced body weight. Periods of growth and development during childhood provide windows of opportunity for interventions to influence body weight trajectory but long-term studies are lacking. More emphasis needs to be placed on anticipatory guidance on how to manage powerful hedonic influences of food choice, essential to cope with living in our obesogenic environment and managing hunger which comes with the stronger desire to eat after weight has been lost.
1st Annual Nutrition and Cancer Networking Meeting
The Nutrition Society's 1st Annual Nutrition and Cancer Networking Conference brought together scientists from the fields of Nutrition, Epidemiology, Public Health, Medical Oncology and Surgery with representatives of the public, cancer survivors and cancer charities. Speakers representing these different groups presented the challenges to collaboration, how the needs of patients and the public can be met, and the most promising routes for future research. The conference programme promoted debate on these issues to highlight current gaps in understanding and barriers to generating and implementing evidence-based nutrition advice. The main conclusions were that the fundamental biology of how nutrition influences the complex cancer risk profiles of diverse populations needs to be better understood. Individual and population level genetics interact with the environment over a lifespan to dictate cancer risk. Large charities and government have a role to play in diminishing our current potently obesogenic environment and exploiting nutrition to reduce cancer deaths. Understanding how best to communicate, advise and support individuals wishing to make dietary and lifestyle changes, can reduce cancer risk, enhance recovery and improve the lives of those living with and beyond cancer.
Conference on ‘Application of stable isotope techniques in Human Nutrition Research’
A Nutrition Society member-led meeting was held on 9 January 2020 at The University of Surrey, UK. Sixty people registered for the event, and all were invited to participate, either through chairing a session, presenting a ‘3 min lightning talk’ or by presenting a poster. The meeting consisted of an introduction to the topic by Dr Barbara Fielding, with presentations from eight invited speakers. There were also eight lightning talks and a poster session. The meeting aimed to highlight recent research that has used stable isotope tracer techniques to understand human metabolism. Such studies have irrefutably shaped our current understanding of metabolism and yet remain a mystery to many. The meeting aimed to de-mystify their use in nutrition research.