It is a huge honour to be the next Director of the Rowett Institute, both in terms of the history associated with the Institute and its impact on nutrition science, but also its future direction in terms of understanding how food and nutrition protect our health.
The Rowett Institute has been at the centre of developments in human nutrition globally since its foundation, over a hundred years ago. Its first director, John Boyd Orr was a champion of the need for improved nutrition, arguing for milk and meal schemes in schools, and received a Nobel prize for his work in global food security - an area of research the institute is still active in.
The Institute has also been instrumental in developing methods and tools for dietary assessment, with Richard Laurence Millington Synge awarded a Nobel prize for the invention of partition chromatography. This work continues today with world class facilities for measuring nutrients in the diet.
Scientists at the Institute also work closely with governments to develop policies and strategies to improve nutrition. For example, one of former directors, Philip James, played a significant role in setting up the Food Standards Agency in the UK. Today the Institute works closely with the Scottish government through Rural and Environmental Sciences and Analytical Services (RESAS) as part of the Scottish Environmental, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes (SEFARI) to address nutrition and food challenges and improve the health and wealth of the nation by providing research outcomes and recommendations to policy makers.
With the move of the Rowett Institute into purpose-built state of the art laboratories on the medical campus at Foresterhill in 2016, the institute has continued to play a unique role in UK Food and Nutrition science. It is one of the few Institutes that can cover all aspects of nutrition including human intervention studies, dietary assessment, appetite regulation, electrophysiology, microbiology, food security, toxicology, life course nutrition, and systems medicine. This expertise is underpinned by world class cores in analytical chemistry and the human nutrition unit facilities.
As well as funding from the Scottish Government, UK research councils and charities, the Institute works with industry on topics as diverse as food reformulation, microbiome manipulation and nutrition Apps to helps consumers make healthier and more sustainable choices while shopping. The breadth of expertise at the Rowett is vital if we are going to address some of the major global challenges concerning nutrition including addressing nutrition’s role to treat chronic diseases, nutrition inequalities and sustainability to combat climate change.
As Director of the Rowett my own research motivation is to translate our research excellence in the general population to address some of the major medical challenges in the UK. Diet plays a central role in the development of many chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart failure, fatty liver disease and some forms of cancer. Through precision nutrition we now have the opportunity to reduce the impact of these diseases and maintain health through the life course.