Which are the greatest recent discoveries and the greatest future challenges in nutrition?

M B Katan, M.V. Boekschoten, W.E. Connor, R.P. Mensink, J Seidell, B. Vessby, W. Willett

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Nutrition science aims to create new knowledge, but scientists rarely sit back to reflect on what nutrition research has achieved in recent decades.

METHODS: We report the outcome of a 1-day symposium at which the audience was asked to vote on the greatest discoveries in nutrition since 1976 and on the greatest challenges for the coming 30 years. Most of the 128 participants were Dutch scientists working in nutrition or related biomedical and public health fields. Candidate discoveries and challenges were nominated by five invited speakers and by members of the audience. Ballot forms were then prepared on which participants selected one discovery and one challenge.

RESULTS: A total of 15 discoveries and 14 challenges were nominated. The audience elected Folic acid prevents birth defects as the greatest discovery in nutrition science since 1976. Controlling obesity and insulin resistance through activity and diet was elected as the greatest challenge for the coming 30 years. This selection was probably biased by the interests and knowledge of the speakers and the audience. For the present review, we therefore added 12 discoveries from the period 1976 to 2006 that we judged worthy of consideration, but that had not been nominated at the meeting.

CONCLUSIONS: The meeting did not represent an objective selection process, but it did demonstrate that the past 30 years have yielded major new discoveries in nutrition and health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-10
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number1
Early online date10 Oct 2007
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009

Bibliographical note

doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602923


  • Biomedical Research
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Nutritional Sciences
  • Congresses
  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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