Food and Health: Are We on the Right Track?

In this lecture, Soumya Swaminathan addresses how dietary choices affect individual and planetary well-being.

Food and Health

Global disability and early mortality risks hinge on diets. Dietary guidance mitigates chronic diseases, emphasising diverse, low-salt, low-sugar, and low-trans-fat intake. Food waste contributes 8% to greenhouse gas emissions; 870 million face undernourishment. A third of global food production (1.3 billion tons) is lost or wasted annually. 

Lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt and sugar, are vital for preventing non-communicable diseases. Labelling regulations need strengthening for transparent information. Climate change threatens food supplies globally, impacting health and the planet.

About the Speaker

Soumya Swaminathan, former WHO Chief Scientist and Deputy Director-General for Programmes, is now the Chairperson of the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) since February 2023. With 30 years of experience in pediatrics, clinical care, and global research on tuberculosis and HIV, she has contributed significantly to translating research into impactful health programmes. 

Dr. Swaminathan held key positions in the Indian government, including Secretary for Health Research and Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research. She has an extensive academic background and over 480 peer-reviewed publications. Recognised globally, she is a Fellow of the US National Academy of Medicine, the Academy of Medical Sciences (UK), and Indian science academies. 

Dr. Swaminathan serves on various advisory bodies, holds adjunct professorships at Karolinska University and Tufts University, and is a Board Member of organisations such as CEPI and FIND

In her role as WHO’s inaugural Chief Scientist, she led the Science division, focusing on research, quality assurance, and digital health. Notably, she played a key role in coordinating global scientific efforts during the pandemic and establishing Covax for equitable vaccine distribution to low- and middle-income countries.