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Symposium for Dietitians Explores Body Weight and Body Composition

Body Weight & Body Composition Throughout the Life Cycle was the subject of a symposium for dietitians hosted by The Irish Nutrition & Dietetic Institute (INDI) in association with The National Dairy Council (NDC)1116 154 image probiotic image lg. The Symposium at the Clyde Court Hotel in Dublin on Tuesday 30th April, took place during National Dairy Week (29th April – 5th May, 2013).

 The plenary session of the symposium was delivered by Dr. Marta Van Loan, a research physiologist with the US Department of Agriculture's Western Human Nutrition Research Centre located in Davis, California.  She is an active member of the American Society for Nutrition and a Fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine. 

Her presentation in Dublin focused on changes to components of body composition through the life stages, from infancy through adolescence, adulthood and elder years.  These components of body composition include lean mass and fat mass, and the sub-components of lean mass like water, muscle, and bone.

 She reviewed protein requirements during the various life-stages, and demonstrated how the different food groups contribute to meeting such requirements.  Dr. Van Loan also outlined how other nutrients play a role in supporting appropriate body composition throughout life.

 The ultimate aim of weight management interventions in individuals is to support healthy and sustainable eating and exercise behaviours for long term weight management and improved health. The most effective interventions are those that are multidisciplinary, involving dietary, activity and behavioural components, with dietitians well placed to deliver high quality, clinically effective, patient-centred approaches to the management of overweight and obesity.

Ms Breen highlighted the 2013 revision of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute’s, Weight Management Interest Group position paper on optimal approaches to adult weight management.


 “This paper supports dietitians in the selection and use of a range of dietary approaches including 600 calorie deficit ‘low calorie’ diets, altered macronutrient composition diets and meal replacement products,” explained Ms. Breen.  “No single dietary treatment will work for all individuals, and the skill of the dietitian lies in working with the client to tailor the dietary approach to their needs.”


Catherine Norton, Dietitian, University of Limerick and Accredited Sports Nutritionist focused on ‘keeping healthy people healthy’ rather than treating ill-health.

The rate of muscle loss in sarcopaenia is estimated to be 1 – 2% annually after the age of 50 years. Compounding this lean tissue mass loss is the phenomenon whereby muscle is replaced by adipose tissue.

 “The challenge for practitioners is to change the natural trajectory of alterations in body composition to promote lifelong health,” concluded Ms. Norton.

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