Hundreds of nutritionists and food scientists take over Irwin Hall
In a spirit of collaboration, a diverse group of students and professors relay the results of their recent studies.
More than 700 students and practitioners in the fields of nutrition and food science gathered at LAU Beirut on Tuesday to listen to 19 specialists present their latest research findings. Students and professors from eight universities expounded on the rising obesity levels in the MENA region, the carcinogenic risks in potato chips, gluten mislabeled products, the nutrition of Syrian refugees, and the risk of pesticide residues, among other topics.
The presentations were delivered in three sessions, with the first focused on nutrition, the second on food science and the third a combination of the two. “Nutrition and food science are very related,” explained conference organizer and LAU Assistant Professor of Food Science and Technology Hussein Hassan. “After all, the food industry produces industrial products that are affecting the nutrition of individuals.”
Producers of such foods were among the conference sponsors, offering samples and networking with potential clients outside the Irwin auditorium during the breaks. The free admission, made possible through the sponsorships, attracted an overwhelming number of participants from across most universities and regions of Lebanon.
Having to stand, for lack of available seats, did not deter Balamand university graduate Noura from enjoying the event. “The topics discussed were very diverse and very relevant to me at this stage in my career.” LAU graduate Joumana Aouf agreed. “I’m here to make sure I stay up to date with information that affects the care I can offer my patients.”
Hassan began organizing the conference with Assistant Professor of Nutrition Lama Mattar in November. “All the papers presented relate to recently completed research,” he explained. “The quality of the abstracts received for this conference was very high and we were able to accept two thirds of them after a blind peer review and consideration of limited time.”
Pleased by the diversity of the participants and the spirit of cooperation that marked the event, Hassan stressed the importance of these components to the field. “This conference is scientific and when it comes to science we should always take away inter-university competition and collaborate,” he said. “We have today heard presentations from all universities and this is a rare occurrence in Lebanon.”
Over lunch, Hassan and 30 fellow academics discussed their latest projects and considered opportunities for future collaboration. “Many were meeting for the first time despite being in the field for decades,” he said. “We have limited resources in Lebanon but all too often we follow an individualistic approach. If we don’t collaborate, we will perish.”