News from Congress of the Portuguese Council of Nutritionists
  • As diet is one of the determinants with the greatest impact on health, the Portuguese Council of Nutritionists is committed to define and clarify about the most appropriate policies and practices from a scientific and technical perspective, respecting the right of all citizens to quality nutrition. 
    In March 2019, the Portuguese Council of Nutritionists held its second Congress with the theme “Nutrition - a global vision”. Some of the most reputed national and international experts attended and contributed to such a decisive discussion. The scientific program included 5 courses, 5 meetings, 6 panels, 3 conferences, 5 oral communications and an exhibition of 26 scientific posters. 26 national speakers and 7 international speakers discussed issues such as sustainable dietary standards, promotion of healthy environments, nutrition and health gains, challenges for the millennium in clinical nutrition, and challenges of the nutritionists around the world. 

    Below we present some of the subjects that were discussed in this event:
    • Sustainable diets aim to address the growing health and environmental concerns that are related to food production and consumption. As expected, topics such as the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diets and the food and ecological footprint were addressed.
    • We know that food choices have a big impact on policy decisions. The relationships of the food industry with health professionals, the possible conflicts of interest that may exist and current economic impact of the Nutritionists’ practices in different settings have been widely debated.
    • Portugal is currently witnessing a profound change in its demographic and epidemiological profile, and this brings major challenges to society and the health system. The life expectancy of the Portuguese currently exceeds eighty years. Living longer and better is 
    the big challenge. In this context, food must be a public health ally, social inequalities and the right to adequate food should be considered, and the role of governments in economic nutrition policies is crucial.
    • Admittedly, proper nutrition plays an important role in health protection and diet therapy, applied and monitored by nutritionists, has a potential positive impact on the health of individuals. The growing information about nutrition knowledge in scientific or non-scientific outlets, as well as the easy access of the public to this information, much of which without proper scientific validity, pushes nutritionists to refine and support their professional practice by the best current evidence. These will be some of the millennium challenges for clinical nutrition.
    • Obesity and overweight continue to persist in Portugal. Its origin depends on multiple factors and the environmental factor is extremely relevant. We observed changing environments, excessive advertising to nutritionally unbalanced products and widespread availability of nutritionally unbalanced products in relation to healthy products. The promotion of salutogenic environments should be a priority.
    Faced with the increase of tourism in Portugal, there has been a recent flow of tourists seeking medical treatment or health care for several reasons. Nutritionists should be a part of this market segment, contributing for the creation of added value in the sector.
    The major challenges facing nutrition and the nutritionists were also discussed, ending with a panel entitled “Challenges of the Nutritionists Around the World”, which featured representatives from Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. This panel was intended to promote debate among representatives of various global professional associations of nutritionists, focusing on local regulatory models, challenges and opportunities for practitioners from the countries represented. Speakers were invited to briefly describe the organization and professional regulation of nutritionists in their countries, focusing presentations on the challenges and opportunities they currently face.
    The congress began with an inaugural session that brought together a group of Portuguese nutritionists that work around the world, and culminated with the Young Nutritionist Award, which aims to unveil talents, to motivate the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit in the area of nutrition, 
    to boost and promote nutrition research, to promote the dissemination of good professional practices in nutrition, and invest in young nutritionists who seek to innovate in solving the challenges of Portuguese society.
    This Congress, which had 625 participants, demonstrated the strength of nutritionists as a relevant profession in today's society, and contributed to reinforce the need of establishing evidence-based health policy measures focusing on food and nutrition. 
    Alexandra Bento