Overcoming nutritional challenges in asia: new innovations revealed at the ACN 2019

Industry News 08/23/2019

8min read

Talking Nutrition Editors  

The latest advances in discussion at the Asian Congress of Nutrition 2019

  • More than 3,000 food and nutrition professionals, researchers and academia from around the world attended the Asian Congress of Nutrition 2019 to hear the latest advances in nutrition and food innovation.
  • DSM hosted three symposiums at the event investigating the importance of adequate infant nutrition, food fortification and new technologies for nutrition innovation.
  • The importance of adequate nutrition during the first 1,000 days of an infant’s life was highlighted by experts during the DSM-led conferences, particularly the role of DHA during pregnancy and DHA and ARA supplementation in supporting childhood development in populations at risk of nutritional deficiencies.

DSM at the Asian Congress of Nutrition 2019

Bringing together food and nutrition specialists from across Asia, the quadrennial meeting of the Federation of Asian Nutrition Sciences (FANs) took place on 4-7th August at the Bali International Convention Center, Indonesia. The theme of this year’s congress was ‘Nutrition and food innovation for sustained well-being’ and DSM experts Dr. Peter Van Dael, Dr. Manfred Eggersdorfer and Dr. Femke Hannes put together a scientific program to explore new technologies to determine breastmilk composition, the important role of long-chain polyunsaturated acids (LCPUFAs) – namely docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) - in early life nutrition and the latest science in food fortification. 

Peter Van Dael, Senior Vice President Nutrition Science and Advocacy at DSM, commented on the importance of the congress; “In order to meet the nutritional needs of the world’s growing population and support the health and wellbeing of individuals throughout life, there is a need for the nutrition industry to collaborate around innovative solutions to overcome nutritional challenges. In particular, advances in early life nutrition are critical to support maternal and childhood development for populations most at risk from deficiencies.”

Here, we share our key takeaways from the event:

2. The benefits of LCPUFAs for optimal infant and maternal nutrition

The second session focused on infant nutrition and was particularly well-received by visitors to the event,
many of whom even brought their children with them to find out more about the topic!

To reduce the risk for malnutrition and support optimal physical growth and cognitive development during infancy and childhood, adequate nutrition is essential during the first 1,000 days, i.e. the period between the onset of a woman’s pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. This window is marked by rapid physical and mental development, with increased demand for important nutrients to support optimal growth and development.

LCPUFAs, namely DHA and ARA, are recognized for the key role they play in the development and function of
brain and vision during the first 1,000 days. Prof. Kraisid Tontisirin (Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand)  oted that nutrient deficiencies are widespread throughout South East Asia, resulting in poor developmental outcomes during early life. The main causes of malnutrition include poor maternal nutrition and health, reduced breastfeeding, inadequate complementary feeding, poor sanitation and infection or illness. To overcome this, Prof. Kraisid Tontisirin explained that nutritional intervention combined with education and healthcare is therefore key.Prof. Bob Gibson (University Adelaide, Australia) discussed the results of the recent Cochrane paper which investigated the association between omega-3 fatty acids and early preterm and preterm births. The review, which included 70 randomized trials and almost 20,000 women, found that low DHA status is associated with an increased risk for premature birth. It concluded that omega-3 LCPUFA supplementation during pregnancy can be an effective strategy for reducing the incidence of preterm birth for women with singleton pregnancies. Furthermore, the latest ORIP intervention trial demonstrated that DHA supplementation was effective reducing the risk for preterm birth in mothers with low DHA status. Dr.
Conny Tanjung’s (Pantai Indah Kapuk hospital, Jakarta) focused on genetic polymorphisms for fatty acid desaturase (FADs) and their implications on infant health and nutrition. Key takeaways from the session were that FAD genotypes are different for Indonesian and European populations. In fact, Dr. Tanjung revealed that the Indonesian population is at risk of being able to synthesize sufficient levels of DHA and ARA fatty acids from their precursors meaning DHA and ARA supplementation is most relevant. Better understanding of the genetic variation among populations should increase nutrition professionals’ awareness of the importance of personalized solutions for more effective interventions and improved public health.

3. Inspiring the next generation of nutrition innovators

The burden of malnutrition across the world is rising. While significant steps are being made to address this challenge, there is still a long way to go before achieving the 2nd Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ending all forms of hunger by 2030. Strong leadership throughout the nutrition industry is important in the fight against global and national malnutrition. A thorough understanding of the latest evidence on nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive determinants is required to truly bridge the gaps between global stakeholders and make a significant impact.

Seizing the opportunity of having so many young and talented nutrition and food innovators in one place, and to boost progress towards the SDG 2030 target, DSM led a workshop for 40 individuals representing 12 nationalities to generate new ideas that could spark the next big innovation in nutrition. Focusing on nutrition in key demographics such as school children, women and active seniors, as well as health challenges such as anemia, the workshop identified iron, calcium, vitamin D and folic acid to be the most prevalent deficiencies in the Asian population. Following this, a number of interesting concepts were created during the session which could be developed into real-life solutions for the Asian population. These included:
•     Fortification of traditional snacks
•     Introducing fortified meal boxes under the school feeding program in Indonesia
•     The importance of innovation in rice noodle fortification was identified
•     The addition of logos to packaging for quick identification of fortified products
•     The addition of vitamins to soymilk to reduce the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies and related diseases.

Dr.  Taichi Inui, Nutrition Manager, DSM concluded on the event: “The exciting insights and new research presented throughout the conference, combined with DSM’s scientific expertise will support us in bringing more targeted nutritional solutions to the marketplace, for optimal public health. We’re excited to see what innovations will unfold in the next few years and positively impact nutritional outcomes for populations at risk of deficiencies not only in Asia, but worldwide.” To find out more about the research presented at the Asian Congress of Nutrition or to learn how DSM supports the development of infant nutrition products for
optimal early life nutrition, please contact us.

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