Rianne van Zandbrink - Nutrition and Food
Why nutrition and food?
My interest in nutrition became clear to me before I started my Bachelor of Communication and Life Sciences. I was unable to enrol in a Bachelor's degree in nutrition at the time because chemistry and biology were not part of my final exam. That's why I chose a Bachelor’s where I could combine two major interests: nutrition and communication. After all, nutrition is something people talk about every day. There is endless communication about nutrition! It comes up not only in conversations, but also in artful pictures of food you encounter on social media. Moreover, most people have firm convictions about what is healthy. Personally, I wanted to know what really is healthy. During my Master’s, I intentionally selected courses to discover this.
Communication, nutrition and food
These communication courses taught me how to figure out what and how people communicate about nutrition. I find it fascinating to see what is said about nutrition, and, more importantly, what is omitted. Next, I want to be able to talk about nutritional values as a communication specialist as well as the effect of healthy and unhealthy food on the body.
An interesting, oft recurring issue is the effect of influencers. Individuals garner huge followings on Instagram, who they convince about healthy lifestyles and diets. People really believe this. But when a scientist has their say, their influence seems much more limited. Is this a dangerous trend? Or should scientists move with the times and cater to these new forms of communication?
Something else I'm personally interested in is the relationship between nutrition and disease. Research increasingly shows the positive influence of changing a diet to reduce an illness or symptoms of disease. However, changing your diet can be a daunting task. This is where you, as a communication specialist, can play an important role. How do you try to adjust a diet together with the patient and his or her family? After all, it is an important part of a person’s life, but often people also want to change, because this way they can feel in partial control of their own illness.
Courses in nutrition and food
As life science courses in my programme, I selected Clinical Nutrition Research and Public Health Nutrition: Development of Nutrition Intervention Programmes (this course no longer exists, but an interesting alternative would be Food Systems for Healthier and Sustainable Diets).