From being the home of a Nobel Peace Prize winner to being awarded one of the most significant research projects into diabetes remission, Glasgow has an incredibly rich history in the field of Human Nutrition.

We sat down with Professor Mike Lean, who heads up the Human Nutrition faculty at The University of Glasgow about the expertise in the city, and how events like the European Congress on Obesity (ECO 2019) help to drive the field forward. 

“Human nutrition is essentially the founding science – it underpins biology and chemistry, and dates back to ancient times. Glasgow has a rich history in the field, having been the home of Lord John Boyd Orr, who was a student, and later both Rector and Chancellor of Glasgow University.  Boyd Orr won the Nobel Peace Prize for advocating a world food policy based on human needs, rather than trade interests.

“Boyd Orr’s interests stemmed from identifying the differences in food intake between affluent and impoverished areas in the city. Today, this sentiment still rings true. We are a city, and indeed a country, which will shout out against social injustice which adds to the success of the field in this region.

“Recent breakthroughs and significant research projects in the city focus heavily around diabetes remission. In 2014, we were awarded funds for The Diabetes Remission Clinical Trial – the largest single project ever funded by Diabetes UK, and we presented the results in 2017 at the International Diabetes Federation Meeting in Abu Dhabi.  The trial continues for 5 years.

“Our Scottish expertise continues to create positive impacts on a global basis. We are currently working on several international research projects, which have allowed us to lobby for funding to tackle the numerous contributing causes of obesity, diabetes and related conditions.

“Of course, none of this is possible without a lot of international, national, and cross-faculty collaboration. We achieve this through events – like ECO, which was held in Glasgow this year. These meetings allow us to showcase our work to the rest of the world and help us to expand our work on these exciting projects.

“Leaving a legacy is crucial as our cause is very much relevant to the general public. It’s also important to us to engage the next generation of doctors, and so we provided free accommodation to student delegates, which then encouraged more experienced delegates to come. We held a pizza and beer night for the youngsters which fostered some brilliant relationships.  I am sure these new friendships will last a long time, and hopefully lead to some great research collaborations and outcomes.

“Glasgow has left a significant legacy on the congress itself. I am passionate about music, and we insisted that there was a ceilidh during the conference.  Practices with a good dance-caller during coffee-breaks proved a big hit at the meeting and on social media!  Now, we’re taking the band to the next congress in Dublin and even on to Maastricht the year after that. Of course, there’s the underlying message that getting people moving can reduce obesity, but the music aids learning, increases delegate engagement and helps create fantastic memories. There’ll be a piece of Glasgow at European conferences for many years to come, I’m sure!”

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