Inaugural lecture by Stanley Ulijaszek – University of Copenhagen

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Inaugural lecture by Stanley Ulijaszek

The lecture is held on the occasion of the appointment in March 2017 of Stanley Ulijaszek as Honorary Affiliate Professor within humanistic health research at The Saxo Institute and Copenhagen Centre for Health Research in the Humanities (CoRe), University of Copenhagen.

Stanley Ulijaszek is Professor of Human Ecology and Director of the Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity at the Institute of Social & Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. Professor Ulijaszek is a highly respected researcher within nutritional anthropology and obesity science. 

In his inaugural lecture “Nutrition transition, obesity and the life course”, Stanley Ulijaszek will examine the relationships between population obesity and models of Pattern Four nutrition transition as experienced at early stages of the life course. He will also consider how developmental plasticity and epigenetics may be related to nutrition transition in helping to shape global patterns of obesity. 

Everyone is welcome at the lecture and registration is not necessary. 

Lecture abstract

Obesity has been modeled in one way as an outcome of population exposure to obesogenic environments in high income countries, and in another, with modernization in economically emerging nations. The most important developmental life course periods related to obesity are early: in fetal growth, and in infant development soon after birth. At both times of life, nutritional predispositions to later life obesity operate through developmental plasticity and epigenetics.

The global rise in obesity is linked to the recent dominance of chronic disease over infectious disease in the world. In low income countries and lower middle income countries, this is linked to globalization and the expansion of modernity. The emergence of obesogenic environments across the world has been described as being a part of nutrition transition in which urbanization, westernization and economic change are accompanied by major shifts in diets to lower nutrient density and higher energy density. The nutrition transition model describes the changing patterns of diet and nutritional health that have accompanied various types of economic transformation.

The term ‘nutrition transition’ is used in public health whenever links between newly affluent populations and dietary changes are discussed. According to Barry Popkin’s nutrition transition model (1993), this refers to Pattern Four, of five patterns of nutrition transition. The ecological changes described by the Pattern Four nutrition transition model are long-term and persistent. Some of the major dietary shifts associated Pattern Four nutrition transition includes falling food prices, rapid urbanization, new and improved marketing and distribution infrastructure, improved roads and ports, improved access to foreign suppliers and food imports, and globalization of food consumption patterns. These changes have resulted in a shift towards higher food energy supplies, as well as greater consumption of fats and oils and more animal-based foodstuffs. Being born before Pattern Four nutrition transition, then experiencing greater availability of dietary energy subsequently has profound implications for population obesity rates. Low birth weight and subsequent catch-up growth are associated with hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and obesity in later life, as a consequence of persisting physiological and metabolic changes that accompany slow growth in utero and compensatory growth in early postnatal life.