Nutrition for Better Health

A general practi­tioner for years, Geneviève Moreau is now a nutrition specialist. Between these two expe­riences lies the story of a growing awar­eness of the importance of nutrition, which started with her son’s food aller­gies. “When he was 2, I realized that our first medicine was what we eat, and I had studied medicine,” Geneviève admits. “In a normal university curriculum, nutrition is covered over only eight hours, when diet is at the core of everything else.” In her practice, Geneviève gave nutrition an increasingly central place in the treat­ment of common pathologies. “For ins­tance, instead of always prescribing an antihypertensive, I looked for the causes of the hypertension and lowered it by adjus­ting the diet.” Her patients noticed an improvement in their health and qua­lity of life. However, when they went shopping or to a restaurant, they risked reverting back to their old habits.

That is why Geneviève decided to get additional training in nutrition. Travelling to Dijon (France) Geneviève earned a degree in Micronutrition at the University of Burgundy. During this time, she met Olivier Coudron, a nutrition health professor. Together they launched the Scientific Institute for Intelligent Nutrition (SIIN) with one clear objective: to promote a sustai­nable diet that respects our body, our health and our planet. “What we eat affects our well-being and can prevent a lot of illnesses,” explains Geneviève. Without replacing medication, food can indeed facilitate a treatment’s success. “In the case of a cancer and in conjunction with anti-cancer drugs, che­motherapy or radiotherapy, intelligent nutrition can help heal and prevent recur­rence. The same goes for cardiac illness and diabetes, which can be alleviated by an appropriate diet.”

WHITE PAPER AND COLLEGIAL PRACTICE

To give credibility to their fight, both doctors have written a white paper on “sustainable nutrition health” and created the International College for Intelligent Nutrition. This allows them to have their work vetted by resear­chers, professors and nutritionists from various European countries. The College also plays an advisory role for the Bel­gium Senate and many political groups. For example, the College provided infor­mation during a vote on legislation on trans fats. Much of the advice provi­ded by the College is aligned with the guidelines and values of SIIN. “In this College, we have a center dedicated to the food-processing industry which recently helped a manufacturer develop a soup,” explains Geneviève Moreau. “This com­pany wanted their product to have a real nutritional and environmental impact, so we audited their recipe.” Sometimes, the College intervenes in deliberations. Geneviève shares one case where a manufacturer wanted to produce “nutri­tion health” bread, but opposed SIIN’s recommendations. “We called upon researchers studying cereal grains to give more weight to our audit.”

SIIN, a fully independent scienti­fic organization, provides training to accelerate the transition to sustainable nutrition. “We are training people in the middle of the chain, those who feed us, such as private restaurant owners or dining services: clinics, retirement homes, schools or companies.” The two doctors also created a European label, Intelli­gent Nutrition, for the professionals who trained at the Institute.

Among the laureates: the Pasteur clinic in Toulouse, which SIIN helped to gain a “sustainable nutritional health” certification. The specifications state that meals must include foods with well-known nutritional properties. To achieve that goal, the establishment converted some of the nearby fields to organic agriculture. People in rehabili­tation programs are employed to farm them. SIIN also works in French terri­tories overseas, as well as in Belgium, Switzerland and Portugal. “A pharma­cist has even taken our movement to the United States,” rejoices Geneviève.

SUPERMARKETS AND THE FOOD-PROCESSING INDUSTRY

Sadly, the public “has gotten used to quickly eating food almost entirely devoid of nutritional properties”. If malnutrition is still rampant in many poor countries, rich countries need to make sure they don’t fall victim to “proteinic undernu­trition”. “We think our diet is balanced but we are wrong. Most of the products in supermarkets are not good for health.” Hence the importance of training pro­fessionals to be local ambassadors, through talks in city halls, schools and sports centers. “Our daily work is B2B (business to business), but the end result is B2C (business to customer). The public need to think: my diet impacts my health and my environment.” Geneviève still needs to work with supermarkets so that “people don’t need a master’s degree to read the labels and tell the good products from the bad”. At SIIN, the work is trans­versal, from pitchfork to fork, with far­mers, doctors, pharmacists and other members of the healthcare community. To go further, the Institute is focusing on the food-processing industry. Gene­viève considers that “industrial groups now have enough technical knowledge and historical perspective to make the change to more sustainable practices”.

By Fleur Weinberg