Show transcript

[Text appears on screen: What if we could create diets tailored to your genetic profile?]

[Music plays and image changes to show Jane]

Jane Bowen: I’m Jane and I’m a research dietician at CSIRO. At CSIRO our role is to look at what Australia really needs. Looking into the future, I think we’ve got some really big challenges that we’re going to have to address and I look forward to whatever creative way we come up with resolving the environmental influences  that we’re going to have on our food production, and also the growing and ageing population is going to present some pretty unique nutritional challenges for us as researchers.

[Image changes to show Jane and colleagues working in a laboratory] 

But also, I think a really exciting part of what we have in the future coming is personalising an individual’s dietary advice right down to their very own DNA structure and genome.

[Image changes to show different images on screens and then changes to show a blood pressure cuff secured around persons arm] 

So perhaps one day it won’t be a one size fits all approach to a dietary pattern.

[Image changes to show Jane looking at produce at a market] 

We are really lucky in Australia, I think, to have such a variety of cultural influences on our food supply. We’ve got an incredible array of ingredients and fresh produce and herbs and spices, and I think we’re really fortunate, I love being able to bring all of that home  and create new foods, things I haven’t tried before, share it with my kids and explore some of those things together.

[Image changes to show Jane preparing food and then changes to show her going for a run] 

I always wanted to study nutrition at uni, and in order to get there I volunteered at CSIRO during my uni holidays.

[Image changes back to show people working in a laboratory and then cameras move to show Jane] 

And it was then that I fell in love with the idea of research and what that actually meant on a day to day basis and how you really are at the forefront of purposing new ways of doing things that people actually put into practice.

[Image changes back to show Jane running and then stopping to look at a waterfall] 

It’s what gets me going, it’s what makes me excited about going to work, is to push the boundaries and see what the future holds and try and make it reality.

[CSIRO logo appears with text: Find out more]

Show transcript

Meet Jane

‘Diet’ is a word that doesn’t inspire most people, but for research dietician Jane Bowen, her unique holistic approach to how we eat allowed her to design solutions that succeeded where many diets have failed. From approaching the language around dieting, to drawing on her own parenting experiences, Jane and her team have shown that getting different results requires different thinking.

What interested you in becoming a dietician and what’s the problem your research addresses?

Food is a really important part of our lives. We spend a phenomenal amount of our day thinking about it, seeking it out, preparing it and, ideally, enjoying it. It’s a core part of how our families and communities interact with each other. It is essential for our physical survival and our cultural expression.

However for many of us, this experience has become tainted by the volume of unhealthy foods available to us and the flood of conflicting messages about what ‘healthy’ means. I’m inspired to counter that with simple, no nonsense advice that is backed up by the highest quality research. 

Why do you think your research and the culmination of that - the Total Wellbeing Diet - have been so successful?

What we’ve been asking as researchers is how we change someone’s behaviour long-term. So in the last few years a lot of our work has focused on understanding how people can make sustainable lifestyle changes. We’ve worked with behavioural experts and psychologists and incorporated digital technology – which sets us apart.

And let’s not forget that the recipes are scrumptious! Eating is something we love to do and weight management should not disregard that. We created recipes and meal plans that are delicious and desirable, instead of making you feel like you have to give up the pleasure of eating and feeling satisfied. We looked for healthy ways to add lots of flavour, texture and volume.

Based on your research, what do you believe is the best way to positively influence children’s eating habits?

Many parents understand that their kids could be more active or eat less ‘discretionary’ foods.

When we wrote the Wellbeing Plan for Kids, we worked hard to create an approach that suits the whole family, because parents are such critically important role models for children.

In the plan we encouraged the family to identify changes they wanted to make together, and to keep changes simple and achievable – for example phasing out sweet drinks. And to work on one thing at a time, and make it a habit before tackling the next change.

How else have you been able to use your research to have a tangible effect?

We were fortunate to be able to work with CSIRO’s digital team to create a mobile phone app and a website that took our research findings and translated them into accessible tools that support weight loss. 

We’re also exploring the potential to one day assess people’s DNA to see if we can tailor nutritional requirements and dietary programs specifically to them.

Facts & figures

National challenges

  • 13 million Australians could be obese by 2050
  • Diabetes cases could double by 2025
  • A recent survey of 40,000 Aussies found that junk food intake was three-times higher than the recommended daily limit.

Eating right

  • BARLEYmax, a wholegrain we developed can help combat cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
  • Personalised nutrition at the DNA level will be possible one day.
  • Available now is The CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet recipe book .

Find out more

Ask Jane a question or get the very latest news, stories and breakthroughs that will help you, your family and Australia.



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