Margaret Allman

Prof. Margaret Allman-Farinelli


Margaret Allman-Farinelli is Professor of Dietetics at the University of Sydney working in the Charles Perkins Centre and has been a member of Nutrition Society for 35 years. She is actively involved in public health nutrition research but has also published in nutrition science and clinical nutrition. For the past decade she has conducted qualitative and quantitative research concerning the dietary habits of younger adults. Her interest was aroused when she realised younger adults were gaining weight at the most rapid rate which begged investigation of their dietary habits and lifestyles. Margaret also recognised that young adults were largely ignored in nutrition promotion practice and is working to achieve policy change to address this.


Factors influencing dietary habits during emerging adulthood 

As adolescents emerge into adulthood they undergo physical, emotional, social and intellectual changes that impact on their dietary intakes. Emerging adulthood is generally regarded as 18 to 25 years-old. During this phase, young adults develop further independence and sense of identity as they leave school, begin tertiary education or a career, and may move out of the parental home. Among adults the youngest have the poorest quality diets. Emerging adults have energy-dense diets that are characterised by low fruit and vegetable intakes and higher intakes of discretionary foods and beverages rich in sodium and added sugars. Thus, it is not surprising to find it is these young males who gain the most BMI units each year and young females gain most BMI units between 18 and 29 years (0.2 and 0.15 kg/M2). Young adults in the lower half versus those in the higher half of the population for socioeconomic advantage have diets of a higher energy-density. Lower educational attainment is generally indicative of poorer quality diet. Emerging adults may be more susceptible to the obesogenic food environment and as they eat more food prepared outside the home and are price-sensitive, they are driven to cheap fast foods.


Prof. Colin Butler


Adjunct Professor Colin Butler has qualifications in medicine, epidemiology and public health. He has a long interest in the environment, social justice and public health and in 1989 co-founded an NGO (BODHI) that works, with partners, mainly in India, seeking to improve health and opportunity for minorities experiencing discrimination. He has contributed to five international scientific assessments, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He is a former Australian Research Council Future Fellow. He is sole editor of the book “Climate Change and Global Health” and founding co-chair of the network Health-Earth.


Climate change, limits, and the global food supply– what is the role of nutrition science?

Elites, from Henry Kissinger in 1974 to the framers of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, have made extravagant, unrealized promises to greatly reduce hunger. Today, over 800 million people are estimated to experience macronutrient undernourishment, five famines are acknowledged and billions more are micronutrient-deficient. Hundreds of other millions are obese. Global nutritional inequality mirrors many other forms of inequality. Neoliberal and other ideologies contribute; many people with power benefit from inequality and collectively act to reduce understanding of its deep causes and remedies. In parallel, little progress has been made in reducing the rate of anthropogenic climate change. Climate change and other environmental limits are already worsening nutrition, perhaps for billions. Climate change will further lower micronutrient concentrations in food, worsen heatwaves, droughts, fires and floods, and inundate fertile coastal land. Humanity’s trajectory risks catastrophe; perhaps even a “fortress world”, from which Australians will not be immune. Nutrition science cannot change global macro-politics but its practitioners can better integrate, appreciate and champion the importance of environmental factors. For example, reduced ingestion of animal products and highly processed foods will mitigate climate change, consume less fossil fuel and improve human health. Such strategies provoke opposition; however, the current trajectory is untenable.

Anne Kelso

Prof. Anne Kelso


Professor Anne Kelso AO is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Before joining NHMRC in April 2015, Professor Kelso spent many years as a biomedical researcher in immunology alongside other roles, most recently as Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne. She is a member of several Government and international committees, including the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board which advises the Minister for Health on the strategy and priorities for the Medical Research Future Fund.


The future of health research funding in Australia

Australian health and medical research has entered a new era of opportunity with the introduction of the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and the Biomedical Translation Fund, in addition to National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding. While NHMRC remains the biggest player, rising disbursements from the MRFF will substantially increase the total budget available for publicly funded health and medical research. NHMRC and the MRFF have different funding models, the first mainly supporting investigator-initiated research underpinned by peer review across all health topics, and the second focused on priority-driven research delivered through a mix of competitive and targeted mechanisms. At the same time, NHMRC is undertaking a major reform of its grant program to address issues that have weighed on the Australian health and medical research sector in recent years. This changing landscape of research funding offers new opportunities for researchers in human nutrition and related fields that underpin individual and community health and well-being.

Laura McCabe

Prof. Laura McCabe


Laura R. McCabe is a Professor in the Departments of Physiology and Radiology and Director of the Molecular Metabolism and Disease Program at MSU. McCabe received her B.A. and Ph.D. from University of Chicago.  Her graduate training in gastrointestinal physiology examined diabetes-induced changes in intestinal epithelial cell gene expression and function.  Her post-doctoral training at U Mass Medical Center, focus on molecular mechanisms regulating osteoblast differentiation.  Her research focuses on the gut-bone signaling axis as a mediator of bone loss as well as a therapeutic target.


The gut microbiome and bone health

It is clear that intestinal microbial dysbiosis, barrier breaks and inflammation can promote bone loss. In fact, many conditions of bone loss also have altered gut function (such as menopause, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes). The gut-bone signaling axis not only represents a signal for bone loss but can also serve as a novel therapeutic target for preventing osteoporosis.  We have identified links between gut and bone health and can manipulate the intestinal environment in a variety of ways, for example with antibiotics to deplete the microbiome and with probiotics to enhance the microbiome.  The latter leads to a clear benefit to both the intestine and bone.  Our studies have focused on the probiotic lactobacilli reuteri, which has anti-TNF properties.  Our data indicate that this probiotic can influence bone indirectly and directly through pathways unique to this bacteria.  Effects of the probiotic in different disease models, an overarching model and future directions will be discussed.


Prof. Leane Redman


Dr. Leanne M. Redman, PhD, FTOS is a Professor in the Clinical Sciences division at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, within Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Exercise Science from Southern Cross University in 1999, a PhD in Physiology and Obstetrics and Gynecology from the University of Adelaide in 2004, and a Master of Clinical Science from Tulane University, LA in 2011. Redman moved to the U.S. for postdoctoral training in female reproductive endocrinology and then by way of a NHMRC Overseas Postdoctoral Training Fellowship moved to Pennington Biomedical to complete an Australian overseas postdoctoral training fellowship in obesity and energy metabolism. At Pennington, Redman directs the Reproductive Endocrinology and Women’s Health laboratory. Her lab is leading presently pioneering research in pregnant women, and is currently performing classic studies of developmental programming in mother-infant dyads to understand the maternal influences on offspring energy metabolism, eating behavior and weight gain. . She is an expert in human metabolic phenotyping and well-known in the fields of obesity, lifestyle intervention and energy metabolism with more than 140 research articles, reviews and book chapters around energy metabolism insulin sensitivity, obesity, calorie restriction and exercise.


Weight management across the lifecourse

With the increasing prevalence of obesity worldwide, understanding effective approaches for weight management has become critical focus for basic, clinical and translational research. The technology boom of the modern day while thought to be a contributor in the obesogenic environment is also being used to intervene and improve health and health behaviors. Modern technologies such as smart phones and accompanying Bluetooth enabled devices allow for individualized treatment recommendations to be delivered to individuals remotely, increased self-monitoring/tracking of health-related data, broader and more rapid dissemination of health information/recommendations, and increased patient-dietician/physician contact. The use of technology in weight management programs results in improved long-term weight management, and in most cases increased cost effectiveness. We have been at the forefront of developing and deploying weight management programs that rely on a smart phone. The foundation of our approach are mathematical models that predict a weight loss (or gain trajectory) for a given individual and use of empirical data such as body weight and activity data obtained from wireless scales and activity trackers to deliver feedback and tailor intervention intensiveness. Our efficacy trials for weight loss and healthy management of weight gain in pregnant women hold promise for wide-scale dissemination in large scale healthcare systems.

Anu Ruusunen

Dr Anu Ruusunen


Dr Anu Ruusunen works as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in several research projects at the Food & Mood Centre, School of Medicine, Deakin University. Her primary research focus relates to the associations between diet, nutrient intakes and mental disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia. Dr Ruusunen is a nutritionist and a registered dietitian, who has worked as a clinical dietitian with psychiatric patients counselling and supporting dietary improvements. Thus, in her research, she aims to increase the evidence-based knowledge on how to improve physical and mental well-being through dietary strategies.

Dr Anu Ruusunen works as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in several research projects at the Food & Mood Centre, School of Medicine, Deakin University. Her primary research focus relates to the associations between diet, nutrient intakes and mental disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia. Dr Ruusunen is a nutritionist and a registered dietitian, who has worked as a clinical dietitian with psychiatric patients counselling and supporting dietary improvements. Thus, in her research, she aims to increase the evidence-based knowledge on how to improve physical and mental well-being through dietary strategies.


Micronutrients and depression

Depression is the leading source of disability and identification of new targets for prevention and management is imperative. Extensive evidence supports associations between diet quality and depression. However, the role of micronutrients remains unclear.

Low intake of folate and lower blood concentrations of vitamin D especially, associate with increased risk of depression. Deficiencies of micronutrients such as folate and zinc may predispose to depression. This presentation will discuss the evidence base for these micronutrients as well as folic acid, magnesium and multivitamin supplementations. Potential mechanisms (neurotransmitters, inflammation, HPA-axis function, oxidative stress, neuroplasticity, and gut microbiota) will also be discussed.

Preliminary experimental evidence suggests some benefits of micronutrient supplementations both in population and clinical samples. Especially, methyl-folate and vitamin D supplementations may promote clinical improvements. However, evidence based on double-blind randomised controlled trials remains limited.

Micronutrients may have a specific role in the prevention and treatment of depression, but at the population level, the benefits of whole-diet approach exceed the benefits of individual micronutrients. These findings highlight the fact that improving quality of diet is important for mental health and will lead to increased intake of micronutrients. However, micronutrient supplementations may have a role in treatment of specific nutrient deficiencies.