avatar for Prof. Michael Gibney

Prof. Michael Gibney

Director, Institute of Food and Health, University College Dublin, Ireland

Michael Gibney, MAgrSc, MA, PhD, is Professor of Food and Health at University College Dublin and is Director of the UCD Institute of Food and Health. He is a former President of the Nutrition Society.  He served on the EU Scientific Committee for Food from 1985 to 1997 and then chaired the BSE working group as a Member of the Scientific Steering Committee of the EU from 1997 to 2000. Professor Gibney was awarded the British Nutrition Foundation Prize in 2000. He is a member of the scientific advisory committee of the Sackler Institute of Nutrition of the New York Academy of Sciences. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the EU Joint Programme Initiative on Diet and Health and is presently chairman of the Board of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. The UCD Institute of Food and Health has recently hosted a high-level policy seminar on “Feeding the World in 2050”.His research interests lie in metabolic and molecular nutrition, in public health nutrition and in probabilistic risk analysis. He is presently the coordinator of a major EU funded (€9m) research project on personalised nutrition (www.food4me.org) and is also coordinator of a major nationally funded project on “The National Nutrition Phenotype Database” (http://www.facebook.com/jingoproject).  Professor Gibney has served on the Faculties of the University of Sydney, the University of Southampton and Trinity College Dublin. He has published over 250 peer-reviewed papers.

Presentation title: Food Security and the first 1000 days ~ The issue of maternal and childhood nutrition

In recent years, there has been a widespread acceptance that actions to improve the nutritional status of those at risk of food insecurity should focus on the first 1000 days of life, that is from conception to the second birthday. We inherit our genes from our parents but during gestation. Those genes are adjusted upwards or downwards depending on the maternal environment. Since the diet is a major component of that environment, the nutritional well being of the mother plays a vital role in setting these levels of gene expression, which, once set, last a lifetime. After birth, two key aspects of phenotype develop in the first two years and then become irreversible. The first is brain development. At birth, the human brain is plastic unlike that of all other species who are born with a hard-wired brain. Newborn babies have to learn a local language, culture and civilisation in the first two years of life. Thus if this brain development is hindered by poor nutrition, permanent downgrading of cognitive ability occurs. Similarly, if the normal growth of a newborn is impaired by poor nutrition in the first two years of life this will become permanent, leading to stunting and poor physical development. It is now realised that this first 1000 days is critical to the development of optimal physical and mental capacity. The United Nations has launched a major initiative in this area (Scaling up Nutrition SUN), to which 30 countries with considerable challenges in food security have signed up to. (http://www.unscn.org/en/scaling_up_nutrition_sun/).   A major focus of SUN is to align agricultural productivity with targeted nutritional issues for mothers during pregnancy and of children in their first few years of life. 

My Speakers Sessions

Wednesday, March 6