John Mathers

Speech Title: The role of nutrition in maintaining good health 

John Mathers is Professor of Human Nutrition, Director of the Human Nutrition Research Centre and Director of the Centre for Healthier Lives in Newcastle University, UK. His major research interests are in understanding how eating patterns influence risks of age-related diseases including heart disease, diabetes, dementia and bowel cancer. John led the EU-funded Food4Me intervention study which used a web-based approach to deliver a personalised nutrition intervention across 7 European countries. He has a long-term interest in developing and implementing large scale human intervention studies to improve healthy ageing (The LIVEWELL Programme), and to reduce the risk common age-related diseases including bowel cancer (The CAPP Studies) and dementia (MedEx-UK). Among his external roles, John is a past President of the Nutrition Society and serves/ served on numerous grants panels and other committees for the MRC, BBSRC, ESRC, World Cancer Research Fund and other research funders. He is a Trustee of the British Nutrition Foundation and of the Rank Prize Funds. John is Editor-in-Chief of the British Journal of Nutrition.


Health is defined by the World Health Organisation as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”. In addition to the effects of, and interactions with, genotype, individual health is influenced by multiple exposures that are consequences of geographical location and time, socioeconomic status, the play of chance and personal choices. Nutrition is a major environmental exposure that influences health at all stages of the life-course. This is exemplified by the triple burden of malnutrition which includes inadequate intakes of macronutrients, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight/obesity. Importantly, nutrition can be improved and can contribute to maintaining good health for everyone through actions by governments e.g. using financial instruments, by actors across the food system, by public health intervention and through family and personal choices.

In this presentation I will review recent evidence about the links between nutrition and health focussing on opportunities for change that are likely to produce the biggest benefits and that are expected to reduce health inequalities. Finally, the close relationship between the human food production and consumption ecosystem and health of the planet means that nutrition-related policies need to be seen in this global context.