The MRC and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) have responded to a wide-reaching review of nutrition research in the UK with new proposals aimed at revolutionising the field. The Review of Nutrition and Human Health Research, commissioned by the Office of Strategic Coordination for Health Research (OSCHR), was overseen by an expert Review Group and its aims included a SWOT analysis of nutrition research relevant to human health in the UK (strengths and weaknesses, capacity, opportunities) and short-long term recommendations.
The Review praised the excellent nutrition research in the UK, but warned about a potential crisis as fewer younger scientists entered the field and experienced researchers approached retirement. It noted that while the behavioural/social science aspect of nutrition research remained strong, the basic mechanistic understanding of nutrition research and its translation to healthier food was beginning to fall behind.
The OSCHR review also highlighted that to truly understand the nutrition ecosystem working with all stakeholders, including the food industry – agricultural, retail, food production, packaging etc is a key step forward.
In response to the review the MRC and NIHR have identified three courses of action to take place immediately which will be followed with longer term activities. The three key pillars will be:
A UK nutrition and human health research partnership. The MRC and NIHR will establish a UK Human Nutrition Research Partnership comprised of experts from academia, health research and industry to develop and realise an implementation plan for the review recommendations.
Developing plans for global nutrition research. Global nutrition research has the potential to transform health and wellbeing across the world. Nutrition, and its influence at all life stages, plays a pivotal role in non-communicable diseases in lower and middle income countries and also has an impact on response and resilience to infectious diseases. Working across the Research Councils, the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Department of Health (DH), through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) the MRC will launch new funding opportunities(http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/funding/gcrf/), to tackle some of these global challenges.
Working with the food industry. Industry must be seen as part of the solution and partnership with the food/nutrition science industry is vital so that research can lead to healthier products and improved nutritional support. This partnership must be governed by clear principles for engagement. The MRC is working with key stakeholders to build on its existing guidance in this area by developing a framework for engagement between researchers and industry.
More information is available on the MRC website.