What I Learned at the 2016 Experimental Biology Conference

From April 2–6, 2016 some big things were happening. You might think I’m talking about the NCAA college basketball tournament, but nope.

NCAA basketball is pretty important to me (next year, Heels!), but I was actually attending the Experimental Biology (EB) meeting in San Diego. EB is a multidisciplinary, scientific meeting that showcases some of the latest research specific to six different professional interests, including nutrition. Are you beginning to sense this science nerd’s enthusiasm? Let’s get to some of the main themes and hot issues covered at EB that were specific to nutrition.

1. The microbiome is where it’s at

In the five days I attended the meeting, I went to at least one session each day on the microbiome.  That’s a ton of real estate spent on one topic! The microbiome is a community of microscopic organisms that can be found all over your body. Research is just beginning to understand the impact of the microbiome on various health outcomes, and our understanding of these complex and unique communities is the tip of the iceberg. So stay tuned for more research about the relationship between the microbiome and chronic disease, as well as how food and lifestyle choices alter the microbiome.

2. Data’s getting big

"Big data" was another topic of discussion found throughout the entire meeting. No longer looking at one piece of information and trying to make inferences on what these data mean, big data means compiling large amounts of information to generate more complete conclusions. One company is examining DNA, blood/saliva, gut microbiome (see above!) and lifestyle information to generate a panoramic picture of a person. This information can then given to healthcare professionals who can provide patients with clear, actionable recommendations about diet, health and lifestyle alterations to promote health and wellness. This field is going to take nutrition science into a realm of unexplored findings and applied opportunities.

3. Creating a culture of trust

While this topic is not a new area of discussion, I’m sure you can imagine how a group of scientists who are generating important and interesting data for their field want their results to be trusted and viewed as accurate by the general population. However, there has been a growing sentiment of mistrust and separation between scientists and the general public. Rebuilding and forming new relationships is critical for both the advancement and acceptance of scientific results, which directly impacts everyone on this planet. Many of the sessions that touched on this issue stressed the need for better science communication so that the general public can both understand and trust the scientific results. You can bet that we science communication lovers at Food Insight were very happy to hear this and felt even more motivation to move the communication of scientific findings in the right direction.   

So there are the top three things that I took away from my experience at EB. I'm looking forward to seeing how these topics (and others) advance this year and beyond.