STEM and Nutrition
I am, currently, a 7th-semester student of BS Nutrition and Dietetics. Let’s take a look at my degree and see how it relates to STEM.
What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It is an unconventional way of learning which helps students develop their individual interests while giving them a solid foundation in the four major disciplines of science. This approach integrates these fields of study to form new and novel lines of work. Hence, it allows for greater innovation, invention, creativity, collaboration, and research.
What is Nutrition?
Nutrition is, basically, the science of obtaining energy and nutrients from the food consumed. The energy obtained is used for the growth, development, and maintenance of life as well as for performing day-to-day physiological functions. This field of study is rooted in the diverse disciplines of biology and sociology. Over the period of years, plenty of work has been done in this area and there are several emerging fields whose expertise is in demand in the modern world. These fields include Food and Nutrition, Nutritional Genomics, Biotechnology, Public Health, and many more.
How does STEM contribute to the field of Nutrition?
Regardless of which field you choose, the interdisciplinary approach that a STEM degree offers is bound to help you climb much higher and much faster compared to regular science graduates. Take the field of agriculture for example. A biotechnologist working in agriculture might be able to whip up a formula for a new type of seed that can tolerate heat and drought, but a scientist trained in STEM can take this a step further. He can conceive of ways to physically alter the agricultural land or engineer a completely new habitat for the crops to grow effectively. And this is possible because STEM graduates have knowledge of maths, engineering, and IT in addition to sciences like biology, physics, and chemistry, and also because STEM emphasizes creativity, practical thinking, and problem-solving.
Now, let’s see what STEM has to offer in the various lines of Nutrition Science.
Food Science and Nutrition:
This field is an amalgamation of food science and human nutrition. The laws of food science are applied in the food industry to make food more nutritious through enrichment and fortification, safe to consume, and ready to use with increased shelf life.
Just think, what do astronauts eat in space? How does McDonald’s make its milkshakes without any milk? Who creates the ketchup and mayonnaise that you enjoy with your fries? What is it inside your energy drink that gives you “energy”?
All of the packaged food industry is backed by scientists. And if these scientists can think creatively and make the production of these products more effective, then the world would surely be a better place and STEM can make that happen.
As we look forward, we find an amazing advancement in the field of nutrition and genetics giving birth to Nutritional Genomics. This discipline studies the effect of various nutrients (both macro and micro) on genes, and also how your genetic makeup affects your nutrient intake and food preferences. This is an area of vast research and is expected to grow globally with the discovery of new linkages between genes and nutrients. It is also expected to aid in the early identification of genetic disorders caused by excess/deficiency of nutrients.
Nutrition and Psychology:
With the help of the study of nutrition and psychology, a Health Therapist can help the community. This approach uses the training and principles of psychology to correct the nutritional habits of the people to support community health. A health counselor may try to understand the psyche of the people, their social background and address the myths they believe in, in a very polite manner to bring about change. In the same way, a counselor can give counseling to adolescent girls regarding weight changes and body shape by giving them exercise and fitness tips to prevent eating disorders.
Biotechnology in nutrition can help with the production of nutritional products with the use of living organisms for the benefit of mankind. One example is the production of lactose-free milk. Similarly, the new concept of synbiotics is also the result of the use of biotechnology in the field of nutrition. There is plenty of room in this field for new developments and it is only via a strong STEM education that this latent potential may be realized.
Knowledge and principles of epidemiology and public health can be used by Public Health Nutritionists to form governmental level policies to prevent and control the widespread of various non-communicable diseases as well as refer problems like malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. Research is underway and students with creative solutions are welcome to contribute.
This was only a small peek into the diverse field of Nutrition and how STEM education can equip you to take up this field of study as your line of work. The rest is up to you to explore!
Author: Mehwish Majeed Editor: Rukhsar Butt