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Dr. Jim House is the head of the new Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences

New department creates opportunities in food and nutritional sciences

September 7, 2017 — 

With the new school year comes a new department in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences – the Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences. While it is still early days, students and staff are enthusiastic about the opportunities generated through the creation of the new department.

On July 1, 2017, the departments of Food Science and Human Nutritional Sciences in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences joined to form the new Department of Food and Human Nutritional Sciences. The new unit includes 22 full-time faculty members and 18 support staff, plus 352 undergraduate students and 82 graduate students.

The department maintains core strengths in food safety, processing and preservation, quality and acceptability, metabolic and molecular nutrition, and applied human nutrition.

While there are no changes in program requirements or degree structure for food science or human nutritional sciences students, there are opportunities for closer collaboration between the two disciplines.

The head of the new department, Dr. Jim House, says the transition made sense on multiple fronts.

“The past 50 years have seen tremendous advances in the nutritional and food science disciplines at the University of Manitoba,” said House. “By uniting these two departments into one, we are now positioned to better understand the role our food systems play in promoting human health, to facilitate transdisciplinary research opportunities and to create graduates with more integrated knowledge.”

Ifeanyi Nwachukwu is a Ph.D. student in the Human Nutritional Sciences program who is studying the transportation of food protein peptides from the intestines to the blood, work which could be used to develop functional foods that help cardiovascular disease.  A Vanier Scholar from 2015, Nwachukwu sees value in the new department structure.

“There is now a growing need for interdisciplinary strategies in the use of food and food systems for the promotion of human health,” he said. “Having food and human nutritional scientists work together as part of a single academic unit will lead to productive cross-fertilization for sharing and critiquing ideas.”

Food scientist Dr. Trust Beta had already been collaborating with her human nutritional scientist colleague Dr. Mohammed Moghadasian before their two departments merged. Their work has centred on understanding the role of phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, in promoting health when consumed as part of a daily diet. She predicts benefits in the new structure as well.

“Our team’s research in unravelling the contribution of plants to human health has been strengthened – for example, we are seeing a more efficient sharing of resources in the new department,” said Beta.

“As well, I can see us jointly delivering food and human nutritional sciences courses, co-supervising students and developing new programs that address the current challenges related to food and nutrition.”

A long history

The Department of Food Science originally formed in 1966 but had roots in dairy courses offered in the early days of the Manitoba Agricultural College (MAC). The Department of Human Nutritional Sciences traces its beginnings to the discipline of foods and nutrition, first within the MAC’s Division of Home Economics in 1910, and then within the School of Home Economics, and in 1968, became the Department of Foods and Nutrition, with an emphasis on food safety and proper nutrition of the community. At this time, both departments were located within the Faculty of Agriculture and Home Economics. After a 60 affiliation with the agricultural faculty, The School of Home Economics, together with the nutritional sciences, was officially granted Faculty status in 1970.  The Department of Human Nutritional Sciences returned to the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences in 2014.

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