Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Research Article

Rank Prize Lecture Global nutrition challenges for optimal health and well-being

Conference on ‘Multidisciplinary approaches to nutritional problems’

on 30 June–3 July 2008, The Summer Meeting of the Nutrition Society, was held at the University of Nottingham.

Ricardo Uauya1a2 c1, Camila Corvalana3 and Alan D. Dangoura2

a1 Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

a2 Nutrition and Public Health Intervention Research Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK

a3 School of Public Health, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile


Optimal health and well-being are now considered the true measures of human development. Integrated strategies for infant, child and adult nutrition are required that take a life-course perspective to achieve life-long health. The major nutrition challenges faced today include: (a) addressing the pending burden of undernutrition (low birth weight, severe wasting, stunting and Zn, retinol, Fe, iodine and folic acid deficits) affecting those individuals living in conditions of poverty and deprivation; (b) preventing nutrition-related chronic diseases (obesity, diabetes, CVD, some forms of cancer and osteoporosis) that, except in sub-Saharan Africa, are the main causes of death and disability globally. This challenge requires a life-course perspective as effective prevention starts before conception and continues at each stage of life. While death is unavoidable, premature death and disability can be postponed by providing the right amount and quality of food and by maintaining an active life; (c) delaying or avoiding, via appropriate nutrition and physical activity interventions, the functional declines associated with advancing age. To help tackle these challenges, it is proposed that the term ‘malnutrition in all its forms’, which encompasses the full spectrum of nutritional disorders, should be used to engender a broader understanding of global nutrition problems. This term may prove particularly helpful when interacting with policy makers and the public. Finally, a greater effort by the UN agencies and private and public development partners is called for to strengthen local, regional and international capacity to support the much needed change in policy and programme activities focusing on all forms of malnutrition with a unified agenda.

(Online publication November 17 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Professor Ricardo Uauy, fax +44 20 7958 8111, email