The Faculty of Livestock Fisheries & Nutrition has started Bachelor of Nutrition & Food Science degreeprogram of four-year duration in 2002. The degree on Nutrition at the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka is the first of its kind in the Sri Lankan university system. The course offered at the faculty provide a broader knowledge in the areas of Nutrition, Food Science and Technology, Livestock and Fisheries. Furthermore, course units in certain general subject areas such as management, economics, finance and computing are taught.
Nutrition specialization allows students to follow a wider range of nutrition, immunology, sports nutrition, diet therapy, food toxicology during the last two years. Diet therapy courses have been specifically designed for undergraduates with a strong interest in nutrition who wish to apply their scientific clinical and management background to the prevention and treatment of disease by modified diets. These courses are expected to be fulfilled the great demand and growing interest for dieticians and nutritionist in private and public health sectors.
The undergraduate programme in nutrition at WUSL is a comprehensive course with both theory and practical components in nutrition
The objective of the degree programme comprise the following: (a) to provide graduates with knowledge on the relation between food, nutrition and health; (b) to equip them with skills to determine and evaluate food and nutrition situations/problems; (c) to promote nutrition intervention to groups and individuals from both a preventive and curative perspective by assisting in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluation of intervention programmes; (d) to incorporate nutrition in a community and public health perspective, and (e) ability to assist in undertaking research activities.
First two years in the degree programme, students will have the opportunity to follow courses in wide range of subject areas in science. These courses will provide a broader knowledge in the areas of nutrition, food, science and technology, livestock and fisheries.
The nutrition courses covers following topics (a) aspects of food and nutrition – principles of biochemistry,biochemistry of energy and metabolism,human physiology,introduction to food and nutrition, food processing and preservation, food toxicology, food chemistry, microbiology, biotechnology in food science,functional food, sociology of food and nutrition,food and beverage service management,principles of food science,food analysis and quality assurance; (b) nutritional sciences – human nutrition, nutrition in life cycle (infancy, adolescence, adulthood, elderly, pregnancy, lactation etc), nutritional assessment, sports and exercise nutrition, nutrition epidemiology; (c) diet and disease – dietary risk factors, obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, cancers, osteoporosis and obesity (d) clinical nutrition – (dietetics) deficiencies, enteral/parenteral nutrition, therapeutic diets for patients with renal diseases, diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases, cancer, heart disease etc.; (e) public health and nutrition – behaviour, education, communication, nutrition programmes, prevention of nutritional problems at community level.
Knowledge in nutrition is essential for those involve in food industry to understand toxicological, microbiological and biochemical mechanisms, by which foods spoil and become unsafe. With the economic development and improvement in technology, nutritious and safe foods have a greater demand in the market. The courses in food science and technology will provide modern knowledge and practice.
Community nutrition (also called public health nutrition) captures a wide range of sciences, from basic sciences to technology and social sciences, with nutrition as its core science. Community nutritionists are experts in determining nutritional problems and needs of people, and in planning, implementing and evaluating programmes for better nutrition of the people in the community.
Sports and exercise nutrition is one of the demanding and modern subject offered in the degree programme. This course provides understanding of how can diet be used in improving sports performance (may be in cricket or athletics) and obtaining health benefits by doing exercises scientifically.
Clinical nutrition (or dietetics) is the other branch of nutrition which has been neglected in medical and allied curricula. Undernutrition, or impaired nutrition status, has been frequently reported from surveys estimating their prevalence among patients in hospitals, not only in Sri Lanka but also in many developed countries. In order to provide various skills to be used in the field of nutrition, a number of laboratory and field practical modules have been incorporated to the nutrition curricula in addition to the classroom teaching for more realistic understanding of the subjects. Recently the department initiated a practical dietetic course in order to expose the undergraduates to the hospital care environment.
They will be trained on planning and administering different therapeutic diets scientifically during their training sessions conducted in hospitals. A formal dietetic training and internship has been identified as a future need, with cooperation of the Ministry of Health. In the final year, each student undertakes a research project under the supervision of a member of academic staff and has to present the findings and submit a printed report at the end. That will develop their analytical thinking and writing skills.
The nutrition laboratory contains a range of equipment and suitably instrumental for analytical work. The clinical unit of the department is equipped to measure anthropocentric, body composition and to conduct clinical investigations. Special computer applications in nutrition are available for student use. Further assistance has been sought from various sources to improve the laboratory facilities.
The courses in nutrition are career oriented and this means that graduates are in great demand. Graduates with a degree in nutrition would be able to enter a wide a range of careers within the food industry and health services. Graduates of nutrition may gain employment in research institutes, with major food companies concerned with food production and processing; as nutrition coordinators in nutrition programmes conducted by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and governmental organisations or as trainee-dieticians/nutritionists in hospitals.
(The writer is a Senior Lecturer in Human Nutrition, Registered Nutritionist & former head of the Department of Applied Nutrition, Faculty of Livestock, Fisheries & Nutrition of the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka.) Read More ..