Nordic Nutrition Congress 2016

Opening address at the 11th Nordic Nutrition Conference

2016-06-20, Annika Åhnberg


Dear Conference participants, dear guests,

On behalf of the organisers:

  • Swedish Nutrition Foundation
  • Swedish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism
  • Swedish National Committee for Nutrition and Food Sciences 
  • Nordic Dietetic Association

I too want to welcome you to the conference, to the beautiful city of Gothenburg and to the Swedish summer. Perhaps you have heard the joke: “I love the Swedish summer, last year it was on a Tuesday”. Well let’s hope it will be at least on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this year.

We are at the beginning of three intense days, with exiting lectures, interesting discussions, sharing of experiences and networking. We will hear about the latest results from nutrition research and development within many areas, from clinical nutrition to public health. And when we leave on Wednesday we will be better equipped to meet the challenges ahead of us.

The challenges are enormous, there can be no doubt about that. While still 800 million people on this earth are starving and undernourished more than twice as many suffers from the opposite problem – too much to eat and of the wrong kind. And in a growing number of countries the two types of problems exist in parallel. In these countries we talk about the double burden.

Many diseases are related to the two types of malnutrition and also the planet earth itself suffers from problems originating from the food system. residues of chemicals, leakage of nutrients, waste of fresh water and contributions to climate change are some of them.

Indeed, we do need radical change - in many ways – in the way we eat and in the way we produce food.

For many years the main idea was that obesity and overweight were problems quite easy to solve if you just wanted to : “We eat too much and move to little”. That is - by the way – probably exactly what we’re going to do here the next coming days; just sit for hours and eat a lot at every possible brake. My proposal to you is therefore to take the opportunity, between the presentations, during applause and so on, to stand up, stretch your arms and legs, turn around, say hello to someone next to you. Who knows it might be the start of a fruitful relation.

Yes, the problem is that we eat too much and move to little – not only here - but in general. But this knowledge is of little help to us as it doesn’t create any change. We are not going back to societies where the majority of us are hunting and collecting, not even farming is an option for more than a few any more. We are stuck in a modern society were all kinds of work increasingly is being done by machines. But we still love to eat.

Of course it’s still a good idea to advice people to move in different ways, playing soccer, jogging, dancing and so on, but it isn’t enough. We ought to know by now that the advice to eat less and move more doesn’t solve the problems. Obviously it isn’t that easy. In complement we need new solutions, new innovative food products, better understanding of the complex relations between diets and genes (we will soon hear more about that). We need closer cooperation between different disciplines of science, not only natural sciences, we need to bring on psychologists, economists, philosophers, environmentalists. We must join forces.

And we need to transfer new insights and results from science to innovative products and services in society.

Being the chairperson of the main organiser of this conference - Swedish Nutrition Foundation - I find this task extremely important. SNF is a bridge between science and society, a function that is becoming more and more important.

We are standing at the doorstep of a new scientific era where microbiology, biotechnology and nanotechnology opens up for new learnings and findings. The results from research must come to the knowledge of different actors in society. And society must become more engaged and interested in nutrition research. Much more public resources must be invested in new nutrition research. To pledge for this is also an important task for SNF.

There is an intense debate going on concerning nutrition and health. Unfortunately, a debate not always based on facts. There is hardly one day without sensational articles in traditional media or social media on new diets or proposed threats from one ingredient or the other.

There is an urgent need to meet all this disinformation with understandable facts and advices based on science and relevant experience. Therefore, SNF has just started the website “”, which means “”. This website will be a tool for those searching facts and knowledge, it is highly wanted and needed. I hope you take the opportunity to visit the “” stand outside the conference hall and to spread the word of its existence. will also play a role in making the content of this conference known outside the conference hall. We are many here and which is very encouraging and promising for the future development. But still many more need to get access to all the important facts that will be presented here.

Once again, a warm welcome to the 11:th Nordic Nutrition Conference!