A Conversation With Dr. Angel Gil, President, IUNS 20th International Congress of Nutrition
The American Society for Nutrition (ASN) is pleased to invite you
to attend the International Union of Nutrition Sciences' (IUNS)
20th International Congress of Nutrition. This year's meeting
will be held from September 15 -20 in Grenada, Spain. The
theme for 2013 is “Joining Cultures Through Nutrition.” As
the U.S. Adhering Body for the IUNS, ASN has been hard at work to
spread the word about the meeting, which provides a unique
opportunity to bring together the world's top minds in nutrition
research and clinical practice. More information on the
Congress can be found at the IUNS
website. A call for abstracts has been issued, and ASN
members are strongly encouraged to submit proposals for parallel,
satellite, and sponsored symposia. The call for abstracts can
be found here; the
submission deadline is February 3.
To find out more about what to expect from the Congress, we spoke
with Dr. Angel Gil, President and Chairman for this year's
meeting. Dr. Gil serves on the faculty for the University of
Granada Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and
Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology Center of Biomedical
Research. He was excited to provide an overview of the many
topics to be discussed as well as his opinion on the issues facing
nutrition professionals on an international scale.
Interviewer: What should ASN members considering attending
the IUNS International Congress of Nutrition expect from this
Dr. Gil: It's very important for members to understand the
significance of this meeting being held in Granada.
Historically, Granada is known as the last redoubt of Islam in
Western Europe, and, as such, it has retained a reputation as a
place that values different cultures and beliefs. In the
spirit of that openness, the theme for this year's meeting
emphasizes the importance of different cultures coming together to
discuss global nutrition challenges. We also have a
particular focus on issues faced by Mediterranean countries and
Latin American countries. We have received many proposals
from Asia, North America, and Australia as well and intend to
assemble a program that represents all countries and regions.
We have more than 80 parallel symposia grouped in eight different
tracks, including nutrition research, clinical nutrition, and
Interviewer: What specific issues would you like to see
covered by this year's panels and discussions?
Dr. Gil: In the nutrition research track, I think one of the
most exciting trends we're seeing thus far is the personalization
of nutrition. We have a number of proposals on how early
nutrition interacts with our genes to contribute to health or,
alternatively, to the prevalence of noncommunicable diseases.
We are also seeing a number of proposals that discuss the use of
nutrition in disease management and prevention. The findings
of several international projects from NIH and the European Union
will be discussed, particularly studies tackling obesity in
children. Previews of the parallel symposia can be found
Interviewer: What do you see as the most pressing issues
facing nutritionists on an international scale?
Dr. Gil: We need to identify more biomarkers for nutrition
and improve our focus on the relationship between genomics and
public health, particularly in context with personalized
nutrition. This personalized approach should begin with
further investigation into maternal and infant nutrition in
developing countries. On the other hand, developed nations
face a major epidemic of childhood obesity. We'd like to make
recommendations to improve child feeding on both fronts.
Nutrition professionals are in a position to use this data to
improve feeding in various cultural communities, but we must do so
in a way that takes into account the importance of traditional and
indigenous foods. We must also consider the need to improve
nutrition in a sustainable way on a global level.
Additionally, it is essential that we investigate how nutrition
works in concert with physical activity to prevent noncommunicable
diseases. For years, most studies in nutrition have focused
on diet and eating patterns, but now we have more data showing that
good nutrition must be balanced with exercise to offer maximum
benefits for patients. Another issue of interest that will be
discussed at the Congress is the importance of functional foods,
such as probiotics and prebiotics. Promotion of these foods
may very well be the key to helping patients make healthy choices
across different areas. Finally, it's important to
acknowledge the impact of the global recession on nutrition.
There is significant support for the impact of economic factors on
healthy eating choices, or lack thereof. We need to combat
this trend by offering easy to understand messages on how to manage
food budgets and how to cook them in healthy and cost-efficient
Interviewer: How can organizations like ASN help tackle
these issues, and how can ASN members get more involved in
nutrition advocacy on an international level?
Dr. Gil: ASN is by far the most important organization in
nutrition worldwide. International scientists all want to
publish in The Journal of Nutrition, The American Journal of
Clinical Nutrition, and Advances in Nutrition. I do
believe that ASN can also help other countries get better nutrition
information. ASN has already formed a number of agreements
with other countries, particularly with Asian countries. I
think it's important now for ASN to reach out to Latin American
countries, to provide more materials in Spanish, and to cooperate
with other programs to support young scientists of all
Interviewer: What are the most pressing nutrition issues in
Dr. Gil: The biggest issue facing Spain is the epidemic of
childhood obesity. As in many developed countries,
cardiovascular problems and other noncommunicable diseases are a
major concern for Spanish citizens of all ages. In 1984, the
prevalence of childhood obesity was around 4 percent. Now, we
are at 17 percent to 18 percent of the total population. This
drastic increase is bound to cause a much higher rate of
obesity-related illnesses in patients of a much younger age.
Already we are seeing large numbers of children developing markers
for metabolic syndrome.
Interviewer: Can you give members an overview of your
current research focus?
Dr. Gil: I began my career in nutrition in the early 1970s
with a focus on the biological components of human milk and infant
nutrition. My group is currently working on a number of
issues, including lipid metabolism and how components of the
Mediterranean diet influence chronic diseases and obesity,
especially in children. We are also interested in identifying
gene variants associated with obesity and early-onset metabolic
syndrome. Last, but not least, we have a relatively small
group interested in the isolation and characterization of new
probiotics in cell, animal, and human models.
Interviewer: Is there anything else that you would like to
say to ASN members about the meeting?
Dr. Gil: I want to personally invite ASN members to come to
this year's Congress. I will have the opportunity to meet
many of you at ASN's Scientific
Sessions & Annual Meeting at EB in Boston. I would
like to emphasize that we are putting together a Congress of
scientific excellence, but I would also like to invite members to
take this chance to network with nutrition professionals from
across the globe. I would additionally like to encourage them
to take the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful and
historical cities in the world.