Future directions in nutrition
The future of contemporary nutrition is indicated by the path it has taken alongside the development of Western science. This extends back to the ancient Greek philosophers at a time when Aristotle founded scientific biology, a subject for interesting reading, and Hippocrates made the significant proclamation to 'let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food'. The empirical tradition seen in the Hippocratic approach extended to the major developments in chemistry in the 18th century, which led to the identification of chemical compounds and the study of chemical reactions. These disciplined observational and experimental traditions carried through to what is often considered the origins of modern nutritional science (see Chapter 1). Today advances in molecular biology and genetics and in quantum physics have arguably created special intrigue for today's scientists. For nutrition, this knowledge consolidates the view that molecules from food are indeed powerful in terms of an individual's health, but at the same time we need to put the individual in perspective in terms of our place in a much bigger universe. To this end, there is a need to see the spectrum of science that serves nutrition practice, from molecules to environments, and to develop knowledge systems that enable this spectrum to hold together and deliver effectively. Just as there are many locations in which nutrition knowledge can be employed in practice (see Chapter 10), nutrition research is conducted through many disciplines. However, for research to have relevance to practice, studies need to address questions that concern the health needs of the population, and research designs need to address these questions adequately. This final chapter begins by highlighting major challenges for the discipline today, and considers the implications of trying to address the interplay between food, nutrition and health.