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In modern western societies we are now experiencing the greatest health challenge to our way of life since the epidemics of contagious diseases of the middle ages. However the driving force for our modern epidemic of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases is not a pathogen but our own lifestyle, and at the leading edge of these factors is diet. This subject will look at the changes in diet over time with particular reference to our evolutionary development as a bipedal omnivore and the foods we evolved in parallel with, and compare these to modern processed foods. Connections will be made with these changed dietary factors to our health situation today, with an overview of specific diet related medical conditions that have become common in modern times. These health-related issues will also be viewed from within a human life cycle framework from conception to old age. The subject will also look into how nutrition research is done, showing students how to separate actual scientific evidence from the plethora of information presented in popular press books, web sites and blogs.
The subject will combine lectures and tutorial activities that involve critically reviewing current scientific studies relating foods to health and disease and an assignment investigating in depth a specific food health connection. The topics to be covered are:
- Research methodology and evidence in nutrition science
- Evolution & human diet
- Life cycle nutrition
- Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome
- Diet and CVD
- Diet and diabetes
- Diet and cancer
- Diet and the gut microbiome
Intended learning outcomes
The objective of this subject is firstly to provide students with an understanding of the role research plays in the advancement of knowledge in the field of human nutrition as it relates to health and avoidance of lifestyle diseases. Using this understanding, the role of diet in life-stage development will be investigated along with the interrelationship of dietary factors with lifestyle diseases. The underpinning basis of the subject will be viewing diet and nutrition in an evolutionary context.
On completion of this subject, students should be able to:
- Interpret scientific studies in human nutrition, with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of specific types of epidemiological cohort studies and randomised clinical controlled trials.
- Understand the basis of human macro and micro nutrient needs in the context of evolutionary adaptations of the digestive system and metabolic processes specific to humans.
- Outline the nutritional content and physiochemical structural differences in modern processed foods relative to the natural foods of the human evolutionary past.
- Understand how the differences in content and form of modern foods can influence health and development of chronic disease state.
- Outline the nutritional requirements of humans in different stage of development from the foetal development through to old age.
- Understand the basic diet and lifestyle issues associated with obesity, diabetes, cancers and cardiovascular diseases.
Students will also develop the following generic skills:
- An understanding of the role research methodology plays in the advancement of nutrition knowledge.
- Skills in independent critical thinking, analysis, review and report writing.
- Effective written and oral communication skills.
- Capacity for independent critical thought, rational inquiry and self-directed learning and research
- Capacity for creativity and innovation, through the application of skills and knowledge
- Develop the ability to work as a team member
- An ability to determine the level of validity of scientific information as communicated via journals, web sites and the media.
Last updated: 7 September 2023