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International Congress of Dietetics: five reasons to go

By Paula Goodyer

1. It’s tackling big issues

Sustainable eating, the gut microbiome in dietetic practice, the allergy epidemic -and navigating conflict of interest in the age of toddler milk - are just some of the topics at this four day conference in Cape Town in September.

  • Climate change is on our minds and dietitians are in a strong position to combine healthy eating messages with sustainable diet advice. Dr Claire Pettinger from the British Dietetic Association working group that created the One Blue Dot Environmentally Sustainable Diets Toolkit heads a workshop on how dietitians can advocate for sustainable dietary change.
  • A symposium on how the gut microbiome is altered in disorders such as IBS, IBD and depression and how diet can modify it includes Professor Kevin Whelan of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London as one of the speakers.
  • Dr Vicki McWilliam from the Telethon Kids’ Institute and Dr Merryn Netting from the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital are among international experts speaking about managing food allergy, and controversies around its prevention. A panel discussion of complex cases lets participants share their experiences and gain more knowledge to apply in their own practice
  • A Balancing Act: Ensuring optimal child nutrition and avoiding conflct of interest is a workshop on the complexity and risks of conflict of interest in infant child nutrition at a time when the market for infant and young child feeding is valued at $US 70 million.

2. There’s so much Australasian talent …   

Professor Karen Campbell, Dr Rachel Laws and Dr Penny Love from Deakin University are speaking on the scaling up and implementation of nutrition interventions targeting the first 2000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s fifth birthday. Professor Fiona Pelly from the University of the Sunshine Coast is one of the Professionals in Nutrition and Sport team speaking on managing the challenges of travel for athletes - jet lag, fatigue, and unfamiliar foods - to maintain optimum performance. Dr Anne Swain from Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit leads a food intolerance symposium to develop knowledge to implement a diagnostic elimination diet and refine existing skills in nutrition assessment of patients. Dr Jane Muir heads a Monash University team on the FODMAP Diet -including its application for breastfeeding mothers of babies with colic, and women with endometriosis. Professor Sandra Capra from the University of Queensland is speaking on how to get published in high impact international nutrition journals. Dr Maree Ferguson and Kate Agnew from Dietitian Connection present a workshop showing how to use email and podcast to build your brand and increase engagement with your audience.

3. A strong line up of international speakers

There’s the UK’s Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy at the University of London, Kenya’s Joan Matji, Regional Nutrition Advisor for the UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO), the Netherlands’ Edith Feskens, Professor in Global Nutrition at Wageningen University, Principle Investigator in several European research projects on glycemic index, sugars and sweeteners, and food metabolomics,  Mexico’s Simon Barquera, Director of the Nutrition and Health Research Center at the National Institute of Public Health and many more.

4. There’s so much to gain from an international conference

“It’s a big investment in self-development. With delegates from 55 countries, it’s a chance to engage with research and learning opportunities from all over the world, to network and learn about job and consulting openings in other countries,“ says dietitian Claire Julsing-Strydom from the ICD’s organising committee.

“Nutrition has universal challenges - all countries face problems with malnutrition or over nutrition or both, for example. But there are some areas where other countries have made more progress or found solutions that others haven’t yet considered - it’s only through International collaboration and networking that we can all learn from each other. A conference like this also lets high income countries share their knowledge with low and middle income countries, while low and middle income countries -  which are forced by lack of funding to be resourceful - can share their innovative problem solving.“

5. There’s so much to see in Cape Town and around

Including tours to explore Cape Town, Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula, including Cape Point Nature Reserve. Hike to Lion’s Head, the mountain slope alongside Table Mountain, with views over the Cape Peninsula and Robben Island or discover local produce at the community-based Oranjezicht Organic Farmers’ Market. Take in a yoga session on 16 Mile Beach and maybe spot a whale or two. Visit South Africa’s first township-based artisan coffee shop, The Department of Coffee or visit Abalimi Bezekhaya, a non- profit micro-farming organisation helping low income communities establish urban vegetable gardens - and much more.

To find out more about South Africa's culture and history, Monique Piderit, RD (SA) has put together a list of books and movies:


  • A Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela
  • Jock of the Bushveld - James Percy Fitzpatrick
  • Cry, the Beloved Country – Alon Paton
  • Disgrace – JM Coetzee
  • Spud – John van der Rui


  • Sarafina
  • Invictus
  • Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom
  • Tsotsi