a1 International Union of Nutrition Sciences (IUNS) President, Professor of Public Health Nutrition INTA Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom
The interaction between nutrition and infection is a key determinant of human health. Traditionally the interaction has centered on the role of nutrients in defining host defenses and the impact of infection in defining nutritional needs and status. Over the past decades the interaction has expanded its scope to encompass the role of specific nutrients in defining acquired immune function, in the modulation of inflammatory processes and on the virulence of the infectious agent itself. More recently the role of micronutrients and fatty acids on the response of cells and tissues to hypoxic and toxic damage has been recognized suggesting a fourth dimension to the interaction. The list of nutrients affecting infection, immunity, inflammation and cell injury has expanded from traditional protein-energy supply to several vitamins, multiple minerals and more recently specific lipid components of the diet. The promise of nutrition in the defense against infection, inflammation and tissue injury has spawned a thriving pharma-nutritional supplement industry and the development of novel foods that require appropriate evaluation of efficacy, safety and effectiveness relative to costs. Academics need to aware of the ethics and the pitfalls in the interaction with industry; conversely industry has to define its role in the process of bringing new knowledge to useful products. The process needs to be interactive, transparent and clearly place public interest above all other considerations.