Hunger and malnutrition are among the most devastating problems facing the world's poor and needy. Their effects can have far-reaching consequences at all stages of life and even on into the next generation. Children born to an undernourished mother may not develop properly in the womb and may be underweight at birth. This can lead to developmental problems later in life, increased susceptibility to infection, and mental retardation. Similarly, children who do not receive adequate nutrition are more likely to suffer from deficiencies that can affect their growth and development, are less likely to do well at school, and are more likely to suffer from infections and other illnesses. Undernourished young adults are more likely to develop future health problems that can increase the likelihood of early disability. Women, undernourished during pregnancy, can continue this vicious cycle on into the next generation.
The toll exacted by hunger and malnutrition is not just on individuals, but on whole societies, if sufficient numbers are unable to realize their economic contribution due to illness, disability, or, simply, the lack of energy to study or work. The social consequences can be equally devastating. Families struggling to meet nutritional needs may be forced to move in search of food or work and can become disconnected from their social network.
International efforts have recognized that nutrition can be an important determinant of economic and social well-being and stability. In many countries, however, addressing this ongoing challenge goes hand in hand with other efforts towards sustainable development, particularly efforts to improve agricultural practices and manage water resources while protecting the environment.
In order to be effective, efforts to alleviate hunger and malnutrition must be targeted to all stages of life and must meet the needs of diverse groups, especially those that are most vulnerable. The 17th International Congress of Nutrition is organized under the auspices of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences to provide an update on issues in nutrition and food sciences and how they impact on goals for nutrition education, setting of nutrition policy and programmes, providing for food security and safety, and implementing recommendations for nutrition practices that will optimize global health through the prevention and treatment of disease.
Isotopic techniques are well-established tools for studying the metabolism of important nutrients such as protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals and, as such, can provide invaluable information on the effectiveness of intervention programmes and other measures to improve nutrition and health. The IAEA International Symposium on Isotopic Tools for Monitoring Nutritional Status in Nutrition and Development Programmes is being held in conjunction with the Congress to review recent developments and experience with these techniques.
Over the course of five days, the Symposium will review:
- Advances in isotopic and nuclear related methods for nutrition research
- Istotopic methods for nutrient measurements and energy metabolism
- Tracer techniques in nutrient metabolism and other applications
- Tracer techniques for evaluating nutritional interventions
Through the Section on Nutrition and Health Related Environmental Studies and the Technical Co-operation programme, the IAEA is actively involved in research to maximize the potential applications of isotopic and nuclear techniques and in co-operative programmes to use these techniques to alleviate nutritional problems in its Member States. For example, these techniques can be used to measure the intake of breast milk by a baby, to monitor micronutrients in the diet of vulnerable populations, to predict the onset of diabetes in adults, or to evaluate the bone health of the elderly.
Isotopic techniques are proven tools that can be used to monitor a wide variety of nutritional problems and improve the management of food supplementation programmes. This symposium will provide a unique opportunity to examine the role of these techniques in the global context of improving nutrition and health.